If the brief hiatus that occurred when the curtain fell at the end of the first scene of this touring production of Mel Brooks' musical satire was really down to a technical hitch, it couldn't have been more appropriate. Because when Broadway has-been Max Bialystock explains to naïve accountant wannabe Leo Bloom later on that one of his three golden rules of producing is that you never ever bring down the curtain after the first scene, it heightens the show's self-referential meta-ness to the nth degree, winning deserved laughter.
As played by Cory English and Jason Manford in Matthew White's production for real life producers Adam Spiegel in association with Tulchin Bartner and Just For Laughs Theatricals, Max and Leo's plan to make a couple of million dollars by putting on the worst play on the planet backfires with spectacular effect. When the pair stumble across Phill Jupitus' manic Nazi Franz Liebkind's Springtime For Hitler, they think they've struck gold. This proves to be just the first piece of taboo-busting, however, in a magnificent parade of nymphomaniac old ladies, mincing theatre directors and leather-clad Nazi hotsie-totsies upstaged only by Tiffany Graves' pneumatic Swedish starlet Ulla.
While Brooks was clearly exploring some of the freedoms of the 1960s when his big-screen version of this libidinous cartoon come to rude life first appeared, the reason it works so well is that he was lovingly steeped in the showbusiness world the show so gloriously pastiches. He also recognised that sex, money and theatrical razzmatazz are a deliciously unholy trinity. This remains the case in a fantastically tasteless display of goose-stepping high camp sturm und drang.
The Herald, March 25th 2015