WHEN his musical version of Hamlet receives a mauling from the critics and subsequently bombs at the box office, theatre producer Max Bialystock, a study in sleaziness, has a rather novel idea to make a quick buck.
He teams up with his downtrodden accountant Leo Bloom to stage Springtime for Hitler, a show that’s as tasteless as it sounds. Bloom spends his days working unappreciated in an office that reminded me of a latter day Victorian workhouse, presided over by a boss who wouldn’t look or sound out of place running a prison chain gang.
No wonder this lovable doormat, engagingly brought to life by Stuart Neal, wants out. Along with Julius D’Silva, who plays the gloriously amoral Bialystock, they make one of the best comedy double acts to appear on Manchester’s professional stage for some years.
Budding young actors take note, these are two men at the top of their craft. The difference in stature between Neal and D’Silva is a cause of much hilarity, particularly during the scene in which the two come to blows.
While this at times riotously funny evening, continues the RET’s much needed tradition of providing an alternative to the dreaded Christmas panto, the tone of The Producers never goes beyond the boundary pushing stage.
Some of the dance routines in Raz Shaw’s production took my breath away. Others, however, looked a little cramped on the Exchange’s small stage.
But I’ve always been drawn to characters with dubious morals and an evening with Max Bialystock will certainly live long in my memory.
Great festive fun - even if most of it is to be had in act two.
Until February 2. The box office is on 0161 833 9833. Star rating - *** Photo by Johan Pressib.