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Mr Monkey sees The Producers at the Royal Exchange Theatre

Venue : Royal Exchange Theatre
Start date: 30th November 2018
End date : 26th January 2019
Visit date : 5th December 2018
Julius D'Silva as Max Bailystock (Production photo by Johan Persson)
Bankrupt producer Max Bailystock (Julius D'Silva) tells anyone who'll listen that he's going to be rich again.
Stuart Neal as Leo Bloom (Production photo by Johan Persson)
Leo Bloom (Stuart Neal) imagining swapping accountancy for life as a Broadway producer. (Production photo by Johan Persson)
Mr Monkey looking at the poster for The Producers
Mr Monkey looking at the poster for The Producers.
Emily-Mae as Ulla (Production photo by Johan Persson)
Ulla (Emily-Mae) explaining the benefits of having many types of herring for breakfast and sex at 11 o'clock. (Production photo by Johan Persson)

Mr Monkey took the 192 into Manchester, and scurried along to the Royal Exchange Theatre for the press night of Mel Brooks' musical, The Producers.

Mel Brooks originally wrote what became The Producers as a book, only a friend pointed out it was all dialogue so Brooks re-wrote it as a play. In 1962 a Broadway producer pointed out that Springtime for Hitler had too many characters for Broadway, so Brooks re-wrote it as a screenplay. Eventually he got funding to make the film, albeit with a change in the title, being released with little publicity in 1969. Later Brooks was persuaded to work the film up into a stage musical which opened on Broadway in 2001 and became a runaway hit, being the first Broadway show to demand $100 for a ticket.

At the start of The Producers Max Bialystock, Broadway producer, is facing financial ruin. During an audit accountant Leo Bloom observes that Bialystock could actually turn a profit if he put on a musical which failed spectacularly. Bialystock lures Bloom (who has always secretly wanted to be a producer himself) into helping finance a musical which is guaranteed to close on opening night, using a script lauding Adolf and the Nazi party and employing a director with an sturdy track record of failed productions.

Bialystock finances the whole enterprise by romancing rich widows, though both he and Bloom fall for their receptionist/secretary Ulla Inga Hansen-Benson-Yansen-Tallen-Hallen-Svaden-Swanson, largely because she is young and Swedish. Unfortunately for the producers, Springtime for Hitler turns out to be a great success and gets rave reviews after its opening night, which, due to the intricacy of their fraudulent plan, is a disaster. Leo and Ulla take all the available cash and escape to Rio De Janeirio, while Max goes to jail after being found "incredibly guilty".

In a slightly unlikely happy ending, Max and Ulla return with most of the money, Max is pardoned and Bialystock and Bloom become respected Broadway moguls with Ulla Inga Hansen-Benson-Yansen-Tallen-Hallen-Svaden-Swanson-Bloom as their favourite leading lady.

The set for this production is circular disc of black marble, with some sort of pattern that Mr Monkey couldn't quite make out, surrounded by a sidewalk. Various items of furniture are rolled on and off as needed by the cast.

The cast are excellent, as Mr Monkey expects at the Royal Exchange. Julius D'Silva plays Max Bialystock almost as a combination of Benny Hill and Zero Mostel (from the original film). Stuart Neal portrays Leo Blooms change from accountant to producer excellently. Charles Brunton's Roger De Bris is marvellously over the top and flamboyantly camp. Emily-Mae's Ulla is delightfully in control as a secretary who is really a dancer, though she wasn't like any Swede Mr Monkey has met.

All are supported marvellously by a fine ensemble and an excellent orchestra.

This is a wonderfully exuberant musical, which reaches a peak with the absolutely splendid and breathtaking Springtime for Hitler, early in the second act. Slightly surprisingly, this isn't the most tasteless number, though it is the funniest. Mr Monkey felt that everything after it is a little weak in comparison, and suspects it's a result of the story having had a happy ending added for the musical.

Mr Monkey thoroughly enjoyed The Producers and recommends it to anyone who wants an outrageous night out.

The Producers runs until 26th January 2019.

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