It is rare to see a musical with so much wit, so much musical and physical comedy and spectacle squeezed onto the stage that you worry you missed something and should see it all again.
And it’s also rare to see one which doesn’t become mawkishly sentimental and manipulative. The Producers is a must-see musical, bawdy and hilarious and with a nice adult edge of modern gay irony.
It is hard to believe it started life back in 1968, and as a film, in Mel Brooks’s landmark but much criticised first foray into Hollywood.
As song and stage writer for the musical, Brooks has been well vindicated by the show’s handful of Tony and Grammy awards.
So you expect the Australian production to be good, in the hands of the same director and choreographer, Susan Stroman.
The surprise delight though is to see such varied Australian performers all perfectly hitting the same note of campy extravagance, their timing and discipline as tight as the dance steps.
The Producers is set in the halcyon Broadway years of the 1950s. Reg Livermore plays Max Bialystock, a crafty producer who after a string of duds now goes looking instead for a surefire flop.
This is the advice of his new partner Leo (Tom Burlinson), a na? accountant looking for a life. They hope to pocket the surplus budget, which Max garners from his Little Old Ladies in return for sexual favours.
The search for Broadway’s worst director takes them to Roger DeBris and his queeny assistant Carmen, played with whippersnapper frenzy by Grant Piro.
Tony Sheldon, dressed in drag and looking like the Chrysler Building, is also superb as Roger. Sheldon is at last in a show where his mannered theatricalities are at home when he and Carmen give Max their stage advice in the number Keep It Gay.
In search of the worst musical, Max and Leo settle on Springtime For Hitler, penned by an old Nazi in helmet and lederhosen, played with perfect Teutonic angst by Bert Newton.
This new neo-Nazi musical is, unimaginably, a smash hit. Leo then runs off with their takings and their leggy Swedish secretary, the dancing coquette role that Chloe Dallimore makes a star vehicle.
The plot here finally takes leave of sense but Leo and Max are restored in their enduring friendship, with Livermore and Burlinson perfect as the oddly matched duo.
Add a swift orchestra and the anarchic wit and songs of Mel Brooks and The Producers deserves all its hype.
The Producers has just opened at Star City’s Lyric Theatre.