There is plenty to smile about this festive season as The Royal Exchange’s annual musical is guaranteed to leave your heart-warmed by its Neo-Nazi musical within a musical. This cheerful Christmas show offers the crème de la crème of comedy stockings, stuffed to the brim with the tackiest and glitteriest fillers production could buy.
Mel Brooks’ and Thomas Meehan’s 1968 Academy Award-winning film is goose-stepping back to the stage after being adapted into a Broadway musical in 2001. The farcical comedy has won its fair share of Tony’s and had its musical remake turned back into a film of the same name in 2005. Now Brooks’ unique style and quirky characters are being reshaped for the Exchange’s smaller stage by director Raz Shaw.
Following the cardboard belt wearing Max (Julius D'Silva) and the cowardly Leo (Stuart Neal) as the two theatrical producers’ scheme to get rich quick by overselling investment in their Broadway flop. With dreams of wine and women with their stolen financiers’ money, their deliberately controversial show, Springtime for Hitler is a guaranteed fail that will soon see the two closing shop and moving to Rio. The love letter to the Führer, written by Franz Liebkind (played by Dale Meeks) is a musical formed to repair Hitler’s broken public image and reveal his lighter side.
Finding humour in the darkest of places, The Producers is carried by Brooks’ lyrics and Shaw’s ingenious direction. The fantastical, multifaceted ensemble switch between puppetry and geriatric dance moves to faithfully re-enact its fast-paced original. With a few additional jokes sprinkled into the already bona fide joke-filled script, this light-hearted love affair with the theatre breezes through songs and sets to leave its audiences in inexplicable joy over tap dancing Nazi’s.
The shows quick moving pace is aided by the dazzling set pieces falling from the sky, the lights surrounding the circular stage from every level and the cast rotating its larger props on/off the stage seamlessly. The upbeat and striking soundtrack is sandwiched between a fantastic cast, including Emily-Mae (Ulla) who brings When You Got It Flaunt It and Charles Brunton (Roger De Bris) with Hammed Animashaun (Carmen Ghai) singing Keep It Gay. While the story is cemented through these smart, energetic performances, D'Silva and Neal add their layer of slapstick comedy to the ridiculousness of this rousing production. With audience members sat so close to the actors that they become props in the scenes, the show forces you to be a part of the pageantry. It is impressive to see how the many moving parts to the mayhem has kept the 50-year old Producers fresh and offensive in 2018.