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28 October 2014
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Theatre, Dance and Comedy

The Producers
The Producers

The Producers

By Stephen Garner
The Producers has been reprised so often that Mel Brooks even joked that his next version will be in 'claymation'. However its latest stage incarnation to open in Manchester starring Peter Kay, could be the best yet...

The Producers

  • Palace Theatre
  • Oxford Street, Manchester
  • 19 Feb - 12 May 2007
  • stage musical comedy by Mel Brooks
  • starring Peter Kay, Cory English and John Gordon Sinclair

There's been huge excitement about The Producers’ visit to Manchester ever since it was announced that Peter Kay would star in Mel Brooks' acclaimed musical.

And it certainly didn't disappoint with Cory English as Max Bialystock and John Gordon Sinclair as Leo Bloom joining Peter direct from the West End production.

The story concerns Bialystock, former King of Broadway, who is advised by his feeble accountant, Bloom, that a flop might be more profitable than a hit. The pair hatch a plan to stage a play so bad it will close 'by the fourth page': the result is Springtime for Hitler, 'a gay romp with Adolf at Berchtesgaden.'

Peter Kay in The Producers
Show-stealer: Peter Kay

The musical is so shamefully silly and fun and the characters so over the top and uproarious that resistance is futile. Once the plot is hatched, the comic momentum is irresistible.

Although Peter Kay receives top billing in The Producers, he isn’t playing either of the main parts. Instead he appears much later  in the role of Roger DeBris, a cross-dressing director whom Bialystock and Bloom believe is perfect choice for their sure-to-flop show.

Keep it 'Kay'

Peter Kay’s arrival follows some wonderful stage numbers, including the comical ‘I Wanna Be a Producer’ and ’Der Guten Tag Hop Clop’ complete with dancing pigeons.

Making his majestic entrance in a dress straight from Dynasty, Peter Kay is tremendous. Resisting what must be an incredible temptation to ad lib, Kay makes the character his own with show-stealing facial expressions and body language.

"Kay puts the camp into Mein Kampf with a sparkling rendition of ‘Heil Myself’ and his bouncy performance brought the house down."
Stephen Garner, reviewer

Stealing the show from Cory English as Bialystock is not easy. Whether performing slapstick, songs, dancing, buffoonery or bantering with the audience, English is a joy to watch throughout and his lively routines hit the mark every time.

John Gordon Sinclair captures Bloom's vulnerability, demonstrating a real gift for physical comedy, as does Emma Jayne Appleyard as the Swedish secretary, Ulla - a loopy, statuesque blonde who works well with Sinclair.

We were also treated to what is possibly the one of the campest characters ever to set foot on a Manchester stage from Robin Sebastian whose mincing as DeBris' assistant Carmen Ghia reduced the audience to tears of laughter.

Cory English and John Gordon Sinclair
Cory English and John Gordon Sinclair

Kay comes to the fore in the second half when his character is forced to step in for an injured actor as the Führer in ‘Springtime for Hitler".

Here Kay puts the camp into Mein Kampf with a sparkling rendition of ‘Heil Myself’ and his bouncy performance brought the house down. The 'Springtime for Hitler' performance is one of the highlights of the show.

Ovation

Mel Brooks still jokes today that he is the only Jew who ever made money out of Hitler, and as the show poked fun at so many groups I found it hard to find it offensive. 

The comic acting at times was exceptional, the sets impressive and the Orchestra under the leadership of Musical Director Adam Rowe never missed a beat.

Just like the producers in the story the entire ensemble pull off an energetic, wise-cracking production that steamrolls away all initial doubts to deliver a hilarious, crowd-pleasing hit.

The standing ovation it received from a packed Palace was richly deserved.

last updated: 26/02/07
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