HAVING only seen the original 1968 Mel Brooks film of The Producers, in which the only piece of featured original music is the title of the show within the show, Springtime For Hitler, I was intrigued to see how this film had been turned into a full scale stage musical, in the same way as Hairspray, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and most recently Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown have been.
I was pleasantly relieved to find that Brooks himself was behind the adaptation, and his involvement with the book, music and lyrics of the musical has ensured just the right level of taste, or rather, lack of it, without causing any more offence than is intended, and helps keep any references which could be regarded as racist or even stereotypical well within the bounds of acceptable humour.
Posters and television advertising for this show feature the best-known TV names, Jason Manford, Phil Jupitus and Louie Spence, for obvious audience-attracting reasons, but the two biggest stars on the stage are the two producers of the title – Manford, the reluctant and novice Leo Bloom, showing that he is so much more than just a comedian, with a sensitive, accurate, lyrical tenor voice, slick choreography and a completely believable American accent, and in the role he has made his own in the UK since taking over in the first West End Production ten years ago, that of Max Bialystock, Cory English, who is a delight to watch, in every single aspect of his performance, particularly his solo number in jail, in which he recaps the entire show, including the intermission. These two are reason alone to see this fantastic show.
Jupitus is just believable enough as the eccentric German composer of the Hitler musical, and brings his natural humour to the role – which will be played by Ross Noble when the show reaches Southampton, who will no doubt add his own unique touches too. Louie Spence, as Carmen Ghia, drawing whoops of admiration from the packed Hippodrome audience, minced and danced his way back and forth across the large stage, every inch the camp assistant to the director Roger de Bris, played with aplomb by David Bedella, and as young auditionee and Bloom’s love interest Ulla, Tiffany Graves brings a confident and technically impressive flair to the stage.
All of this is supported by a chorus of fifteen who play almost 60 different characters as well as singing and dancing their way through the big production numbers, although (along with the choreographer friend who came with me) I did think the slickest, tightest and most together dancing was reserved for the musical within the musical, with a few inaccuracies creeping in to some of the non-Hitler chorus routines.
It was a delight to spot Genevieve Nicole, who started her training in Shaftesbury at her mother Paris Helen’s dance school before attending the Arts Educational School and Laine Theatre Arts, amongst this multi-talented chorus, showing that a successful career in dance is still possible to those who work hard and have the talent.
This is a great show, full of politically incorrect song, dance, laughter and music, sung, danced and acted to a tee by a talented cast and orchestra, all wonderfully led by the two stars of the piece – Cory English and Jason Manford. See it at Bristol this week, or Southampton at the end of May.