Manchester Theatre Awards

> Independent informed reviews by the region’s most experienced critics

The Producers

Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan
Royal Exchange, Manchester
30 November 2018 to 26 January 2019

Three hours of the best worst possible taste in town . . .

A riot of comedy, song, dancing and inventive design that never lets up. What more do you want?

Well perhaps dancing pigeons - on a stick? A chorus line of zimmer frame grannies? Or the show-stopping construct of a giant swastika? If easily offended, then there’s something for every snowflake here.

Mel Brooks made a hit movie comedy out of his paean to Broadway back in 1967, then went one better and turned it into a musical 30 years later. Cue the added homage to Buzby Berkeley’s rotating choreography, a challenge taken up here by director Raz Shaw and choreographer Alistair David.

Using characters he’d met in New York theatreland Brooks imagined a pair of plotting producers staging a show so awful that its rapid demise would ensure they could take the backers’ millions and run. Springtime for Hitler, a musical theatre apology for the Third Reich, dreamed up by a demented former Nazi, just couldn’t go wrong . . .

It’s now such a knowing show-within-a-show, and so well-known, that the gags come telegraphed for many, but lose none of their potency in a cracking performance.

Julius D’Silva and Stuart Neal are perfect casting in the title roles, the latter channelling a lot of the look of Matthew Broderick, who played Leo Bloom in the film musical. If they can both maintain such manic energy for an eight-week run then extra credit.

The added joy of the song-driven version of the show is that incidental characters get their own moments in the spotlight. Dale Meeks is psychotic stormtrooper Franz; Charles Brunton the cartoonly-camp Roger de Bris (the role taken by Peter Kay when the show first appeared in Manchester 11 years ago); and Emily-Mae is statuesque Swedish secretary Ulla, seemingly able to high kick as far as the Exchange’s first circle!

The hidden strength of the all-singing, all-dancing ensemble of 11 is that several of them are on standby as understudies.

What a shame this show misses out on a clutch of Manchester Theatre Awards!

Meantime enjoy Mel Brooks’ manic musical as a political corrective, or just a riotous night at the theatre. Either way just get there.

Reviewer: David Upton