The Producers (Tour)

An all-star cast impress in Mel Brooks’s musical

Jason Manford as Leo Bloom and Cory English as Max Bialystock
Jason Manford as Leo Bloom and Cory English as Max Bialystock
© Manuel Harlan

If you’re looking for an easy, fun night out at the theatre, the new touring production of The Producers is very much for you.

Studded with well-cast star names including Jason Manford, Phill Jupitus and Louie Spence to help pull in the crowds, the addition of a super-talented core ensemble, wonderful choreography and a brilliant band serves to make this a strong all round package for anyone up and down the country.

It’s all about the show, and in this case the worst one around. Lame duck producer Max Bialystock employs rookie accountant Leo Bloom to cook his books after his show is a massive flop, but the two come up with a brilliant scheme – pick the worst show ever (Springtime For Hitler, a neo-Nazi dream musical about how misunderstood the Fuhrer was) and get it put on with the worst direction and the worst cast possible, and when it fails, they can take the money invested and run away to Rio. Of course, things don’t always run according to plan…

Seasoned performer Cory English takes on the role of Bialystock with gusto – English has been playing this role in one form or another for years, so it’s no surprise that his performance is so on-point this early in the run. Meanwhile, someone’s had a casting stroke of genius putting in forthright stand-up comedian Manford in as the shivering, quivery Leo Bloom. Blessed with gorgeous vocal chops and a great acting sensibility to boot, Manford’s mouse works brilliantly against English’s blustering Bialystock.

While Jupitus could do with putting a little more oomph into his Hitler-obsessed Franz Liebkind (although he's being subbed out by Ross Noble later in the run), David Bedella and Spence make a fun pairing as dreadful director Roger De Bris and ‘common-law assistant’ Carmen Ghia, who take on Springtime For Hitler with unbridled, if misplaced passion. Spence, as ever, heavily upstages everyone else (to be fair, the audience loved it) but Bedella’s gravelly tones and dramatics are always a joy to behold, and his efforts allow for some real laugh-out-loud moments.

But, despite the names, this show really belongs to the ensemble, who skilfully utilise Lee Proud‘s sharp moves to spin from role to role within seconds, playing everything from accountants to old ladies and usherettes. While there aren’t tons of them in number, they more than make up for it in panache and skill – Andrew Gordon-Watkins’ dancing Cossack is particularly worthy of mention, as are the tap numbers in "Springtime For Hitler" and "Along Came Bialy".

This isn't a 'difficult' show, but sometimes you don't want something complex – you just want something funny. And this delivers that in spades.

The Producers runs at Churchill Theatre, Bromley until 14 March 2015 before touring nationwide