The Producers - Theatre Review

Posted in Reviews on August, 21 2005 7:28 AM

The ProducersThis well known tale follows a familiar path from rags to riches, back again, and finally back to riches. Firstly a film back in 1968, it's now a successful show both in New York's Broadway and London's West End.

The premise is very simple. Max Bialystock (Fred Applegate) is a Broadway Producer lamenting the demise of his latest show 'Funny Boy' (a musical hamlet). Into his life arrives accountant Leopold Bloom (John Gordon Sinclair) who notices that if a producer were to sell shares only in the profits of a show, and the show then flopped making no profit, the producers of the show could walk off with, perhaps, $2m. Understandably, Max is interested and after some persuasion the two go into business to produce The Worst Show Of All Time - Springtime For Hitler - A Gay Romp With Adolf And Eva.

Of course, things don't go quite to plan, but that's as much of the plot as I'm willing to divulge.

The show does stick very closely to the plot of the film, up to a point. A theatrical musical is often longer than a film - this show runs to 2 hours 45 minutes - and so the ending is significantly extended. I remain unconvinced by quite how long it was, although Bialystock's new song Betrayed is a wonderful piece of showmanship as Max runs through the events of the previous two hours or so in about two minutes.

For sheer laughs, gags, puns and jokes, however, the show wins on all fronts. From the full-voiced Nicolas Colicos as Franz Liebkind, the author who has written 'a love letter to Hitler', to the exceedingly camp pair of Conleth Hill and James Dreyfus (star of The Thin Blue Line and Gimme Gimme Gimme) as the director Roger De Bris and his assistant Carmen Ghia who shamelessly scenesteal everytime they're on stage. Special mention must also go to Leigh Zimmerman's special Swedish accent as Ulla.

The play works because every person in it is trying to steal each scene in turn, leading to an escalation of enthusiastic, over-the-top performances that drive everything on.

The show is in of itself extremely funny, in the way that it satirises the way that groups of people try to reclaim and remember events in history. In this case, of course, the Second World War. The actual highlights we see of Springtime For Hitler are wonderfully offensive if it wasn't a joke, with a rotating swastika of dancers, two women dressed as Panzers and the immortal lyric "We're moving at a faster pace, come on here comes the Master race." Quite.

It's a great show, it'll run for a long time, but do be aware if (as I did) you get the cheap seats in the balcony because the steps up are long and steep and it's very, very warm up there. However, the show is worth it.

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