Jersey Boys and The Producers burst into Beijing

And we've got the lowdown on these two classic musicals

The Producers was an Academy Award- winning 1968 film (Best Original Screenplay), a record-breaking 2001 musical, then a 2005 musical movie. Rarely has one brainwave yielded so much trans-media success. In Mel Brooks’ celebrated story, has-been producer Max Bialystock and timid accountant Leo Bloom hatch a scheme to make failure pay off: choose the worst script, director and actors, and ensure the show closes overnight. This way the backers lose their investment and the producers keep what’s left. And surely centering the story around a lush musical number called 'Springtime for Hitler' seemed guaranteed to drive the audience screaming into the streets. But they miscalculate: the script, director and actors are so bad they’re good, and a farce about Hitler is an instant hit – which means a prison term for Bialystock and Bloom.

The story was sheer genius; then again, Brooks was writing from reality, since dubious fundraising was common Broadway practice. According to the press material, he based Bialystock’s character on an amalgam of producers, one who 'pounced on little old ladies and would make love to them,' for angel investments, and two others who 'were doing flop after flop and living like kings.' And when a press agent told him, 'God forbid they should ever get a hit, because they’d never be able to pay off the backers!' he combined the three. 'Bang! – there was my story.'

Fans of the film may find that the musical’s songs and softer characterisation add nothing to – and even dilute – the savagely perfect story; nevertheless, The Producers racked up the most Tony Awards in history, and will keep you laughing all night.

Jukebox musicals are nothing new, but unusually, Jersey Boys blends discography with biography. Book writers Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice focused on the life and loves of a struggling band that took its name from a local bowling alley. But the Four Seasons’ story was overshadowed by their many hits, such as 'Working My Way Back to You,' 'Walk Like a Man,' 'Big Girls Don’t Cry,' and 'December, 1963, (Oh What a Night).'

Based on interviews with the group’s surviving members and research that yielded some surprising results (such as performers’ prison time) the story is split into four segments, or seasons, each narrated by a different band member talking about unpaid debts, trouble with a loan shark, friendship with a mob boss, marriage, divorce, seduction, jealousy and lead singer Frankie Valli going solo. Jersey Boys also had its own movie version in 2015, but had already become the 12th-longest- running show on Broadway, playing from 2005 to 2017.

Fans of The Four Seasons will benefit most, but the everyband backstories make Jersey Boys entertaining for all.

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