The premise is simple: find a show you know will flop and you can make more money than you would with a hit. When Bialystock and Bloom stumble across Springtime for Hitler it becomes clear they’ve found exactly the show to orchestrate the perfect, money-making flop. Or have they? Mel Brooks’ musical, The Producers, is a satirical masterpiece, proving to be just the right amount of outrageous for its Edinburgh audience.
Comedian Jason Manford took on the role of Leo Bloom, panic-attack prone accountant, dreaming of becoming a Broadway producer, and the hat that goes along with that. He managed to show Bloom’s development as the show progressed, maintaining elements of his innocent enthusiasm and excitement.
Matthew Broderick made the role famous on Broadway but Manford brings his own goofy wit and charm to the performance. Louie Spence as Carmen Ghia brought a whole new level to the word camp. His sass was almost unbearable at times and his attention-seeking shimmies and shakes made sure the audience were watching him all the time he was on stage. The man owned the role and brought everything he had to the performance. Phil Jupitus sang and danced as crazy Nazi Franz brilliantly and was a great addition to a star-studded cast. Songs like “Der Guten Tag Hop-Clop” gave him opportunity to show Franz’ somewhat disturbing loyalties while his pigeons added another level of humour to the play.
With big name celebrities included, it would be easy to overlook the ensemble, but in a production as tight as this, it is clear that they deserve credit. Balancing numerous roles, including a troop of sex-crazed grannies and singing Nazis, they managed to keep the play light and amusing. The dancing Nazis in “Springtime for Hitler” and “Heil Myself” proved that everything looks better with glitter and managed to highlight the sheer ridiculousness of the play within a play.
The opening numbers suffered a little from the overpowering volume of the orchestra, but this issue was resolved quickly in the first half. Rapidly shifting tempos kept the audience on their feet and the orchestra kept everything moving at a great pace. The set changes were swift and the overall simplicity worked well, leaving lots of space for dancing and allowing the actors to really fill the stage. The choreography was quick and intricate, showing the dancers’ skills while simultaneously not overshadowing the rest of the action.
Overall, The Producers is a great show. The musical is lighter and more upbeat than the original film but retains many of the tried and tested jokes. This isn’t life-changing theatre, it isn’t emotionally involving, or difficult, but as a laugh-out-loud break from life, it works.
Photo: Manuel Harlan