Theatre review: The Producers , Edinburgh

Phil Jupitus excels as Nazi playwright Liebkind in The Producers
Phil Jupitus excels as Nazi playwright Liebkind in The Producers
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WHEN Mel Brooks’s film of The Producers first appeared in 1968, postwar audiences would literally gasp with shock at the sheer comic boldness of his story about a pair of Broadway producers who – for complex financial reasons – set out to stage the worst musical ever, the merry Berchtesgaden romp Springtime For Hitler.

The Producers - Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

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The joke, of course, is that the sure-fire flop put together by battle-scarred Broadway veteran Max Bialystock and his new recruit Leopold Bloom becomes a a smash hit; and if the shock-value of Brooks’s goose-stepping Nazi show-tunes has diminished slightly over the last 47 years, this sharp, vivid and hilarious new touring production, directed by Matthew White, demonstrates that there is still something boundary-busting, and irresistibly comic, about Bialystock and Bloom’s ill-fated show.

It’s perhaps the play’s 1970s-style sexual politics that are most likely to shock a 21st century audience, as Max bestows his sexual favours on an army of hideous but rich old ladies in order to raise funds, and showbiz homosexuals mince and pout outrageously. The whole fierce extravaganza is delivered with such wit, though – and with such a range of fine, well-sung performances from stars Cory English and Jason Manford, with Phil Jupitus as their demented Nazi playwright – that its sense of the absurd is impossible to resist; and in the end, of course, the real satirical target is not Nazism or anti-Nazism, but showbiz itself, and its endless, amoral quest for the next big thing with bling, right down to the last sparkling swastika.

Seen on 23.03.15

•l Ends today; then tours to Glasgow 15-20 June, and Aberdeen, 22-27 June.