Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Producers"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"


entire contents copyright 2009 by Tony Annicone

"The Producers"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The first show of Bay Colony's 2009 season is the Broadway sensation "The Producers". Adapted by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan and based on Mel Brooks' Academy Award-winning 1968 movie of the same name, this bawdy musical is the story of down-on-his luck theatrical producer Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom, a mousy accountant. Together they hatch the ultimate scam: raise more money needed for a sure-fire Broadway flop and pocket the difference. Their "sure fire" theatrical fiasco is none other than the musical "Springtime for Hitler" written by neo-Nazi, Franz Liebkind, an ex-Nazi storm trooper which tells the story of Hitler's rise to power in song and dance. They are convinced that they have found a show that is guaranteed to offend just about everyone. They then hire Broadway's worst director, Roger de Bris and his "common-law assistant," Carmen Ghia who will change the ending of World War 2 by keeping it gay. Complications arise when the show unexpectedly turns out to be successful. The show is accessible to a wide range of audiences and draws on ridiculous accents,caricatures of homosexuals. Jews, Irishmen,Swedes and Nazis, and many show business in-jokes. It also has Nazi-arm-wearing, dancing and singing storm troopers, a bevy of beautiful blonde tap dancing show girls, a Swedish blonde bombshell and a huge group of dirty old ladies on walkers whose names are euphemisms such as "Lick me-Bite me", "Kiss me-Feel me", "Hold me-Touch me", a song with the refrain"Don't be stupid/ be a smarty/Come join the Nazi party!". The musical opened on April 19, 2001 and ran for 2,502 performances, winning a record-breaking 12 Tony Awards. It was also turned into a movie musical in 2005 starring many members of the Broadway cast including Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick. This version which is the premiere of local theatre company's obtaining the rights to this impressive show is splendidly directed and choreographed by Dori Bryan and musically directed by Michael Kruetz. The musical is sure to offend anyone without a funny bone and bring child-like glee to everyone else. To quote words from "Springtime for Hitler", the audience is sure to leave the theatre feeling "Happy and Gay". This production of "The Producers'' is a must see show that is rewarded with a thunderous standing ovation at the curtain call.

Dori not only directs this show of over 30 multitalented performers with a keen eye but her superb dance numbers stop the show with their intensity and execution. They include Russian ballet, tap dancing, a chorus line and dancing old ladies on walkers. Her direction obtains every laugh from Mel Brooks' hysterical dialogue. The musical direction of Michael Kruetz is topnotch as well with him obtaining the best vocals from his cast in their solos, duets and group numbers. The multitude of gorgeous costumes from the 1950's is by Daniel Kozar as is the set design. Co set designers are Michael Duarte and Michael Teixeira with the lighting by the latter and sound design by Ed DiMarzio. The many props are handled beautifully by Gail Gilman especially the gun that Franz threatens everyone with it. The show is set in 1959 and leading this cast of madcap larger than life characters is Steve Dooner who has shown strong directing prowess throughout the years with various Shakespearean shows and this past fall with the critically acclaimed production of "Doubt" at Company Theatre. This time he plays the demanding role of Max Bialystock who has been known as "The King of Old Broadway" but not this time because his latest fiasco, a musical version of "Hamlet" called "Funny Boy" has just closed and the crowd call it a piece of shit. Unlike Steve, Max has directed nothing but flops for quite a few years. His show stopping number occurs in the second act in the eleventh hour time slot, is called "Betrayed" where he sings and acts out snippets of every song up to that point because he feels that Leo has left him to rot in jail. The song is reminiscent of "The Legacy" from "On the Twentieth Century" and Steve Dooner deliver it in a tour-de-force performance. During the beginning of the show when Max waits for his little old lady that he stupps before he takes her money to infest in his shows, in walks accountant, Leo Bloom who is also excellently played by Steve Shannon who I reviewed in "Company" a few years ago. He is made up to look like the biggest nerd in the world, complete with a tiny blue blanket like Linus from "Peanuts" and Leo explains that $2000 is missing from the account and exclaims you can make more money with a flop than with a hit.. Both men have excellent voices and are expert comedians. The audience is sympathetic to Max and his crazy shenanigans of Step 1: Find the worst play ever written, Step 2 Hire the worst director in town, Step 3 Raise two million dollars, Step 4 Hire the worst actors in New York and open on Broadway Step 5 Before we close on Broadway, take our two million and head to Rio. Leo realizes his life is going nowhere as a public accountant in "I Wanna Be a Producer", the 2 file cabinet drawers open as doors with gorgeous leggy blonde chorus girls appearing to do a tap dance with Steve who reaches out to get a top hat and cane out of thin air. Both Steves also bring the house down with "We Can Do It" when they decide to team up and again in "Where Did We Go Right" when they discover "Springtime for Hitler" is a success instead of a failure. The most sentimental song of the show is "Til Him" when Leo returns from Rio, married to Ulla, attempting to set Max free at his trial. Instead they are both sentenced to five years in prison and write a show for the convicts called "Prisoners of Love" dancing around in their pinstriped convict uniforms. The ending of the show has Max and Leo walking off into the sunset arm in arm which reminds one of Rose and her daughter, Louise from "Gypsy" or Georges and Albin from "La Cage Aux Folles".

Max and Leo finally after reading script after script find the worst show ever, written by Franz Liebkind who was a storm trooper for Hitler. After a twelve year absence from the stage due to his being a professional classical musician, Brenton Wilder returns in a stupendous performance as the crazed German who wants to kill everyone in sight after they make fun of the Fuhrer in a mockery of his script. His antics with his pigeons in their coup is hilarious and his awesome voice is heard in "Old Bavaria", "Der Guten Tag Hop-Clop", Hitler's favorite song and dance before signing the rights to his script he forces Max and Leo to wear swastikas and pledge allegiance to Hitler as Franz raises his index finger, Max and Leo raise their middle finger. Brenton also sings "It's Bad Luck to Say Good Luck on Opening Night" where he falls over a ladder offstage breaking his leg after he won the audition for the role of Hitler in "Have you Ever Heard the German Band?". Other scene stealing performances in a show of scene stealers is Daniel Kozar as the tres gay, cross dressing director Roger De Bris, who wears an Art Deco gown, looking like the Chrysler Building, and the Conga line with his gay cohorts is hilarious as is his Hitler during the "Springtime" song. (The Conga line cohorts include Romo Hallahan as Set designer,Bryan with bare chest and open leather jacket, Sean Sullivan as Costume designer, Kevin, Adam Joy as Choreographer, Scott who has a constant hard-on built in his costume and Kathleen Comber as Lighting Designer, Shirley Markowitz with leather jacket and tattoos.) Another fabulous performance is given by Jeff Mahoney who may be small in stature but huge in talent as Carmen Ghia, Roger's live-in assistant. His mincing antics and long lisp with dragging out the s in a word are hysterically funny and Jeff's and Daniel's jumping in the air clicking their heels is, too as is when he brings Roger roses with mascara dripping down his face and is pushed out of the way by Ulla. (Daniel just played the Wicked Witch of the West and Jeff played the Lion in the fall production of "The Wizard of Oz". Another standout in this show is the gorgeous young blond hair gal who plays Ulla. Emilee Leahy is tall and statuesque as the blonde bombshell who Max and Leo both lust after. She auditions for them in a song called "When You've Got It, Flaunt It" and boy has she got it. When they ask her what time she wants to come into work after she explains her schedule, they both say eleven in the morning because that is when Ulla wants to have sex. Emilee and Steve Shannon also shine in their tribute to Fred and Ginger number called "That Face" in the second act where Ulla and Leo fall in love. A word of praise to Michael Varner as the leading tenor who sings "Springtime for Hitler", the most well know song in the show. The dirty old ladies who love getting swindled out of their money for sexual favors are lead by Carol Kingsbury as Hold Me, Touch Me who acts out a scene as the young milkmaid seducing the well hung boy thereby jumping on top of Max on the sofa. The old ladies also do a dance with their walkers called "Along Came Bialy" which closes Act 1. Kudos to everyone who made this show a musical masterpiece. Bravo! So for a fantastic rendition of "The Producers" be sure to run down to Foxboro and The Orpheum Theatre to reserve your seat. Tell them Tony sent you.

"The Producers" (30 January - 8 February)
BAY COLONY PRODUCTIONS
The Orpheum Theatre, 1 School Street, FOXBORO MA
1 (508) 543-4434

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