Comic Jason opens up about new stage role

Jason Manford as Leo Bloom in The Producers
Jason Manford as Leo Bloom in The Producers
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Comedian Jason Manford will be hoping to ‘tap’ into a new world as he takes to stages across the country in musical comedy The Producers.

The popular comic and TV host has been honing new skills, ahead of the opening of the show, which comes to Manford’s native North West next week.

As the character Leo Bloom, a nerdy, nervous accountant who’s arrived on Broadway, Jason’s been learning to tap dance - alongside the professionals.

“When you’re learning something like tap, it’s on your mind all the time,” he said.

“Everyone’s so good and you’ve just got to be at the standard. It’s a lot of work, but worth it. It’s great fun, and the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”

In The Producers, Leo and theatrical producer Max Bialystock plot to get rich by staging a major flop - but the show unexpectedly turns out to be a hit, landing them the fame they crave.

Jason made his musical debut in Sweeney Todd in the West End in 2012, starring alongside Michael Ball and Imelda Staunton, after finding his voice on ITV show Born To Shine - which led to him joining Fleetwood tenor Alfie Boe on tour.

But this time out, where his character in the much-more-serious Sweeney was killed off early on in the show, in The Producers Leo Bloom is the man around whom the story revolves.

“It’s massively different... I was dead by half eight in Sweeney Todd,” the Salford-born comedian said.

“This time I’m the company leader, really, across everything. Once Leo gets on stage, I don’t go off.

“Leo is really fun to do. He’s basically Judy Garland - this wide-eyed exciteably nobody who comes to Broadway and everything is just ‘Gee’ and ‘Alright then’. He’s naive and easily led, he’s quite neurotic and hysterical too.

“He’s got really good songs and a nice love story with Ulla, and comedy with Max.”

The Producers’ cast also includes reality TV star Louis Spence and fellow funnyman Phil Jupitus, as well as stages stars Cory English and Tiffany Greaves.

And Louis straddles stage and celebrity stardom with flexible ease.

“Louis is a fantastic dancer,” Jason said.

“I knew he could move but he is like a 17 year old.

“And he could not be more suited to the part of Carmen Ghia, for the first time nobody will ever have to say ‘Calm down Louis’.”

Stockport-based Jason recently became a dad for the fifth time, welcoming a baby girl to the world in January, so next week’s run at Manchester’s Palace Theatre will be a welcome reprieve from travel - although the tour only opened last Saturday in Bromley.

“With a little baby, it kind of doesn’t matter where you are as long as there’s a bed and milk - she’s happy, and she will be coming on tour with us,” he said.

“It’s the nature of this job, you have got to get on with it.

“These projects don’t come round all that often we have to take it when it comes up.”

* The Producers, Palace Theatre, Manchester, Monday to Saturday, March 16 to 21. Call 0844 871 3019 to book.