Royal Exchange, Manchester – until 26 January 2019
Guest reviewer: Daniel Shipman
The Christmas musical at the Royal Exchange is fast becoming a Manchester tradition. After a run of hits, The Producers has a lot to live up to, but even so, it surpasses every expectation. Raz Shaw’s production of this classic and controversial Mel Brooks musical turns the camp, the glitter and the hilarity up to 11.
For those unfamiliar with the plot, The Producers tells the story of a crooked Broadway producer and his impressionable accountant as they attempt to stage a show which will certainly flop, and inadvertently create a hit. Just as with the fictional musical it revolves around, The Producers takes aim at a variety of nationalities, sexualities and careers – offending the audience has never been this much fun.
As Max Bialystock, Julius D’Silva is a constant source of energy from the first moment of the show to the last. The show is at its strongest in the whole cast numbers which fill the stage with life, but D’Silva is just as comfortable occupying the stage single-handedly whilst the cast (and the audience!) catches their breath.
Ben Stones’ design exploits every nook and cranny of the stage for maximum comic impact, and the lack of any permanent staging keeps the show moving at a breath-taking pace. Just when you think the visual gags can’t get any more outrageous, you are confronted with a rotating swastika made of glitter which surrounds Hitler doing jazz hands. The costumes too are a feast for the eyes and a frequent source of laughs – the cast goes through more outfits than you can count, at speeds that defy belief.
An honourable mention must go to Charles Brunton as flamboyant director Roger De Bris. With shades of camp bordering on absurdity which recall the best of Monty Python, Brunton is a joy to watch whenever he is on stage.
Underneath this chaotic and entertaining show is a genuine fondness for the eccentric highs and the seedy lows of show business. The Producers lets you share in that fondness, and the payoff lies in the rapturous audience reception. Beg, borrow or steal your tickets – it’s what Max would do!
The Producers runs at the Royal Exchange until 26 January 2019.
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