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Review | ‘The Producers’ at Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester

"Soars with naughtiness and unlimited charm."

By Will Stroude

Words: Matthew Hyde

This huge Broadway musical is performed in the round at the intimate Manchester Royal Exchange. Without the enormity of past productions we are treated to something more honest, more immediate and simply more breathtakingly fabulous.

The plot hasn’t changed in its fifty year history: two scheming producers plan to cash in by producing the worst musical ever known. Sourcing the worst of directors, along with the most appalling script and cast, we are presented with ‘Springtime for Hitler: A Gay Romp with Adolf and Eva at Berchtesgaden.

On the surface there is a lot that can potentially offend, especially today. The story has always tread a thin line and there should always be that frisson of danger, of wondering if they will go too far.

The sexual advances of the male producers towards the Swedish secretary Ulla in the wake of #MeToo is just one example. The uncomfortable should be made entertaining which is no easy task. To say the cast succeed with this catalogue of bad taste is an understatement.

Everything is performed with a complete sense of ownership and a mischievous knowing twinkle in the eye. We also poke fun and ridicule ourselves and our ability to be shocked and outraged. It’s clever and when we sense that no harm is meant the production soars with its naughtiness and unlimited charm.

Julius D’Silva as Max Bialystock portrays this charlatan with genuine warmth and likability. He’s a lovable rogue giving a layered performance as his paternal instincts towards Leo Bloom (Stuart Neal) shine through. As wide eyed Bloom, Neal is the perfect partner for D’Silva. His journey from an innocent to confident man-about-town is sensitive and believable.

Charles Brunton as the shambolic director Roger De Bris is an absolute star. His turn as Hitler is outrageous in the best possible way. Whether it’s being lowered into the auditorium mounting a huge German eagle, or bursting through a gigantic sparkling swastika, his star performance will leave you cackling with delight. A brilliant performance and a joy to watch.

Emily-Mae as Ulla tackles what could be a tricky role with complete skill, charm and knowingness. Her number ‘When You Got It, Flaunt It’ is a highlight. There is great support from the rest of the cast and the ensemble nature and sheer energy blow you away. The season has been extended and if you’re looking for something to beat the January blues then this is it!

Rating: 5/5  

The Producers plays at Manchester Royal Exchange until 2 February. For more great deals on tickets and shows click here.