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Review: The Producers at the Sunderland Empire until Saturday

Mel Brooks's madcap stage show will have you in stitches - assuming you are not overly prim or proper

*****

You may know the outrageous premise of this hilarious show about a show… but you may not know that the whole thing is gloriously outrageous too.

Every stereotype you can imagine makes an all-singing, all-dancing appearance, with bells, whistles and lorry-loads of sparkle.

The show was written and composed by Mel Brooks, now 88, who adapted it from his Oscar-winning 1968 movie after a gap of more than 30 years.

Baby-faced comedian Jason Manford makes a brilliant Leo Bloom. He is the shy accountant who chances on the idea of making millions on Broadway with a guaranteed flop.

As you would expect from Manford, his comic timing is spot on and his range of facial expressions a delight.

His tap dancing might not be of the same standard as the talented chorus, but it turns out he is a decent singer too.

Powerhouse Cory English returns as Max Bialystock, the veteran producer who takes the idea and runs with it – allowing Leo to fulfil his dreams in the process.

English’s performance is a joy to behold as he launches himself onto tables – and amorous old ladies!

His many-layered rendition of Betrayed, including, among other things, a recap of the whole show so far, won him the loudest applause of the night.

However, one of my favourite moments belongs to Phill Jupitus, the comedian who is probably best known for Never Mind the Buzzcocks, and has appeared in a few big musicals in recent years.

The UK tour of hit musical The Producers
The UK tour of hit musical The Producers

Jupitus (to be replaced on Friday by Cramlington’s Ross Noble) plays an unhinged Nazi author (did I not mention the Nazis yet?) and it will make me smile for a long time as I think of him, clad in lumpy boots, long socks and lederhosen, skipping tenderly across the stage.

Noble will be getting help with the skipping from another Geordie, choreographer Lee Proud.

And so to those Nazis, the subject of Springtime For Hitler, the ridiculous musical on which the fate of the producers hinges, and which is camper than Christmas, by some way.

As the glittering, winking troops synchronise swastikas and strut their stuff, led by beaming Fuhrer David Bedella, their goose-stepping is accompanied by live music, supervised and directed by Andrew Hilton.

This high-energy show, directed by Matthew White, revels in being near-the-knuckle and there’s some ripe language.

So, as long as you aren’t too prim or politically correct, you’ll have a brilliant night!

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