I’m a freelance journalist and published poet, based in Manchester.
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.
Julius D'Silva (Max Bialystock) & the Ensemble. 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.
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 . ....
Charles Brunton (Roger De Bris), Hammed Animashaun (Carmen Ghia) & Ensemble Photograph: Johan Persson.