I happen to have seen this show in its original productions in New York and London as well as the film of the musical version and the original 1967 version. Because this is a touring production, some of the special effects and large sets and mirrors have had to be adapted or dropped – but have been stylishly reworked by Paul Farnsworth; and a lot of the original choreography has been adapted by Lee Proud to suit a smaller company with many witty and fresh moments.
That said, the spirit and energy of the original shows and films are alive and well and living in this extremely successful rendering of Mel Brooks’ puckish, satirical, mildly surreal vision. The iconoclasm, shock factors and staccato speed of the original are all in tact; and every one of the performances could only be approved by Brooks himself. Cory English makes the most of every one of his scene stealing moments as the outrageous Max Bilaystock; Jason Manford is appealing and captivating as Leo Bloom; Ross Noble does a brilliant over-the-top turn as Franz Liebkind; Tiffy Graves is a dream Ulla; and David Bedella and Stephane Anelli camp it up hilariously in their parts and manage to convey a sense of character as well. The sound production was especially good and the main characters probed to have really strong, appealing voices. The comic timing was impeccable throughout.
This touring production is a real winner, does good service to the original. It is a real credit to the director Matthew White. This is an extremely entertaining and provocative evening of theatre.
The lyrics, by the way, are brilliant; the music is hummable – and very well conducted by Andrew Hilton, with a real sense of the pastiche of Broadway style and energy that Brooks invented – and the show is everything that the label musical comedy suggests. You get a rich blend of what is promised by the label!
- Book by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan
- Music and Lyrics by Mel Brooks
- Director: Matthew White (Original Direction and Choreography by Susan Stroman)
- Cast Includes: Cory English, Jason Manfor, Ross Noble, Tiffany Graves, David Bedella
- New Theatre, Oxford
- Until 4 July 2015 (On Tour)
- Review by Mel Cooper
- 3 July 2015