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Lane produces the goods for Brooks' West End romp



Review by David Munro

FROM the rise of the curtain until the final bows The Producers is sheer pleasure.

This, I must admit, is principally due to Nathan Lane who brings a breath of Broadway chutzpah to the show and lifts it from the commonplace into the sublime.

That is not to say that his partner in crime, Lee Evans, isn’t good. He is excellent, but it is Nathan Lane who, in the old cliché, 'makes the show'; for me, at any rate.

As almost everyone knows, the plot revolves around an unscrupulous producer (Lane) who, with the aid of his accountant (Evans), devises a scheme to defraud a bevy of old ladies by putting on a show that will flop, thereby enabling them to decamp with the investment.

A plot which goes sadly awry when the show becomes a smash hit and the two are sent to jail where they attempt to produce a show with the other inmates which, in its turn, when they are released becomes a hit and sets them on the road to honest fame and fortune.

Mel Brooks, who wrote the original screenplay for the film, on which the show is based, has turned it, with the aid of Thomas Meehan, into a very funny book for the musical which, as lyricist and composer, he has furnished with some very adept and appropriate numbers.

Susan Stroman, as director and Choreographer, has proved she is not a one-hit wonder and, as a director, she is a force to be reckoned with.

Apart from her usual very effective dance routines, in which, in some instances, she satirises her own past choreographic successes, she shows she can handle comedy scenes with the best of them.

Humour is the mainspring of the show and Miss Stroman ensures it is not mawkish but razor sharp.

In this, of course, she is ably assisted by her two stars, whose timing is immaculate and although a lot of the humour is knockabout, they never go too far, leaving the audience wanting more - the essence of good comedy.

Their support, too, is excellent; Leigh Zimmerman, as the stereotyped blonde accessory for the comedians, turns in an excellent performance as a Swede whose name is as long as her elegant legs, and whose thick Swedish accent makes her lines sound funnier than they are.

She also proves, in her romantic moments with Lee Evans, that she is a delightful dancer in the Ginger Rogers manner, which fits in well with the stylised air of the show, which in many ways resembles the burlesque based musicals of the Forties and Fifties.

As the neo-Nazi playwright whose musical, Springtime for Hitler, appears a sure-fire flop, Nicholas Colicos proves, once again, he is not just a good singer with an outstanding voice but also an accomplished comedian.

Conleth Hill, as the gay director of the show, who has to appear as Hitler, wrings every laugh out of his limp wristed character without descending too far into the realms of caricature, as does his aide de camp, played by James Dreyfus.

In short, this is a very accomplished and funny show which fully deserves its hype and pre-publicity.

One can only hope that Nathan Lane can be persuaded to remain on as, (no disrespect to Lee Evans), it is hard to see whether without him the show would have the same zest and sparkle it has today. Time alone will tell.

The Producers, book by Mel Brooks and Thomas Mehan. Music and Lyrics by Mel Brooks.
Director and Choreography, Susan Stroman; Set Designer, Robin Wagner; Costume Designer, William Ivey Long; Lighting, Peter Kaczorowski; Sound, Steve C. Kennedy; Musical Director, Paul Christ.
CAST: Nathan Lane; Lee Evans; Nicolas Colicos; James Dreyfus; Conleth Hill; Leigh Zimmerman; Kenneth Avery-Clark; Stephen Carlile; Hadrian Delacey; Kate Graham; Amanda Minihan; Sherrie Pennington; Simon Adkins; Caroline Barnes; Suzanne Bullock; Lisa Donmall; Cory English; Christian Gibson; James Gray; Kelly Homewood; David Hulston; James le Feuvre; Rachel McDowell; Gavin Staplehurst; Lizahnn; Emma Tunmore; Desi Valentine.
Drury Lane Theatre, Catherine Street, London WC2
Evenings: 7.30pm / Matinees: Wed. & Sat 2.30pm.
Box Office: 020 7494 5000

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