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The Producers, Royal Exchange - Review

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by David Keyworth (subscribe)
Im a freelance journalist and published poet, based in Manchester. keyworthdavid@gmail.com https://uk.linkedin.com/pub/david-keyworth/49/b3a/b83
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Doomed to succeed
A show so dire it will be a financial gold mine. The conceit at the heart of Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan's musical has at its centre - Max Bialystock (Julius D'Silva). He is a down-on-his-luck Broadway producer ("Don't you know who I used to be!"), with a show-poster for When Cousins Marry, at the side of his desk.

He thinks he has found a formula to transform failure to success when Leo (Stuart Neal) visits his office.

Leo Bloom (named for some reason after a James Joyce protagonist) is an accountant with enough nervous energy to power Times Square (Lee Evans once played the role).

He notices, in passing, a loophole in the books, which reveal that an impresario can make more money from a flop than from a runaway success. It is a scam with all the easy charm of a sub-prime mortgage.

Theatre, Manchester, Royal Exchange Theatre, The Producers, Broadway musical
Julius D'Silva (Max Bialystock) & the Ensemble. Photograph: Johan Persson.


Leo, an honest soul, resists Max's offer to become a partner in fraud. That is until the bullying boss at his accountancy firm pushes even timid Leo to breaking point.

From then on, it is a crazy path to the first night of Springtime for Hitler.

The concept of ridiculous, comical Nazis is perhaps not as raw and controversial as it might have been in 1967, when audiences first saw The Producers in its original incarnation as a motion picture.

What does, sadly, now seem somewhat dated (post-Weinstein) is the characterisation of a Broadway producer with a casting coach as merely a loveable rogue.

Theatre, Manchester, Royal Exchange Theatre, The Producers, Broadway musical
Julius D'Silva (Max Bialystock) & Stuart Neal (Leo Bloom). Photograph: Johan Persson.


That quibble aside, The Producers remains a glorious send-up of the murky world of bright lights and opening nights. The song and dance routines, choreographed by Alistair David, are hilarious because they are so shamelessly unsubtle and over the top.

It is hard to choose which routine brings more joy to the capacity audience at the Royal Exchange. It could be the randy old ladies bumping and grinding with their Zimmer frames. It could be the camp- as-Christmas conga, when Max and Leo recruit Roger De Bris (Charles Brunton) to be their director.

Or it could be the marrying of the neurotic and the erotic when Leo and Ulla (Emily-Mae) dance a pas de deux, which is fabulous, darling.


Theatre, Manchester, Royal Exchange Theatre, The Producers, Broadway musical
Emily-Mae (Ulla) Photograph: Johan Persson.


The Springtime for Hitler sequence is such a keenly anticipated high point (brilliantly designed by Ben Stones) that it is inevitably hard for the show to retain its momentum as the story moves towards the final number.

That said, The Producers works so well on the stage because the satire never gets in the way of an uproarious good time. This production, directed by Raz Shaw, fizzes with energy in its determination to repay audience members investment in a night at the theatre (in-the-round).

The Producers (first staged as a musical in 2001) tells the story of an enterprise which all the smart people, are sure will be no more than an overnight embarrassment. If only there were a contemporary parallel to mention . ....

Theatre, Manchester, Royal Exchange Theatre, The Producers, Broadway musical
Charles Brunton (Roger De Bris), Hammed Animashaun (Carmen Ghia) & Ensemble Photograph: Johan Persson.


Theatre, Manchester, Royal Exchange Theatre, The Producers, Broadway musical, The Producers film
The Producers (1968)https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14605155
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Why? A satirical extravaganza, which does not short-change of patronise its audience.
When: 30 Nov 18 - 26 Jan 19
Phone: 0161 833 9833
Where: Royal Exchange Theatre, St Ann's Square, Manchester, M2 7DH
Cost: Standard Tickets from 25
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