Following its two year West End run, Mel Brooks' smash hit finally hits the regions. Big, brash and bold, this delightful show has already broken records in Manchester. The audience gets what they paid for, in laughter alone.
Theatre producer Max Bialystock and his accountant Leo Bloom hatch a plan; raising lots of cash to produce a sure-fire flop. They discover the script to the awful "Springtime For Hitler". Realising it has no potential; they stage the musical about Mein Fuhrer and his army. But the show gets rave reviews and they become the toast of Broadway!
Following the success of celebrity casting on Drury Lane, the first leg of the tour features comedian Peter Kay as camp director, Roger De Bris. But even though he is a main draw, this hilarious show does not rest on his broad, comic shoulders. The terrifically talented Cory English plays Max, straight from the West End. He is tremendous in the role he first understudied for Nathan Lane. Mixing comedy, pathos and singing to the balcony and beyond, his Bialystock is blindingly good.
John Gordon Sinclair is his sidekick Leo. Displaying a real knack for slapstick comedy and geekish charm, he wins the audience over immediately. His nasal delivery does sound a bit like Kermit at times, but he keeps the laughs coming, regardless. Emma-Jayne Appleyard's Swedish sex bomb Ulla is a real delight. As for Kay; what a performance! Clearly enjoying every moment, he never mugs to the crowd or lapses out of character. His singing voice is as perfect as his pratfalls and posh, booming accent. He simply does not put a foot wrong.
Many of the ensemble have come straight from the show in London and it shows, as they are slick and on the money at all times. Amanda Minihan stood out for me in a series of scene stealing cameos - from butch lesbian to overweight showgirl - she is superb. But the whole cast bring slices of Broadway and the West End to the stage, with relish.
Like Jerry Springer The Opera, this show dispenses with political correctness. One favourite scene of mine features dancing grannies with zimmer frames. But beneath this lies a show with a heart as big as the great white way, itself.
- Glenn Meads (reviewed at the Palace Theatre, Manchester)