Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Producers"

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note: entire contents copyright 2016 by Tony Annicone



"THE PRODUCERS"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone



Little Theatre of Fall River's third main stage show of their season is "The Producers" adapted by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan and based on Mel Brooks' 1968 Academy Award winning movie of the same name. This bawdy musical is the story of down his luck theatrical producer, Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom, a mousey 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 DeBris and his "common-law assistant," Carmen Ghia who will change the end of World War II by keeping it gay. Then complications arise when the show unexpectedly turns out to be successful. This impressive version of this musical is splendidly directed by Jeff Belanger and choreographed by Jeff and Jen Bellanti and brilliantly musically directed by Dan Snizek. This musical is sure to offend anyone without a funny bone and bring child like glee to everyone else. This production of "The Producers" is a must see show of the spring season.

Jeff not only directs this show with 39 talented cast members with a keen eye but his and Jen's superb dance numbers stop the show with their intensity and execution. They include a conga line, a tora, a Russian ballet, tap dancing, a chorus line and dancing old ladies with walkers. His direction obtains many laughs from Mel Brooks' hysterical script. The musical direction of Dan is marvelous as always as he obtains the best vocals from his cast in their solos, duets and group numbers. He also conducts a thirteen piece orchestra that is splendid, too. The time period of this show is 1959. Leading this huge cast of larger than life characters is Ryan Durkay as Max who is a fantastic actor and vocalist. This time Ryan plays the demanding role of Max Bialystock who has been known as the "King of Old Broadway" but not this time because his latest show a musical about Hamlet called "Funny Boy" just closed with the crowd calling it a piece of shit. The audience is sympathetic to Max's and his crazy shenanigans as he sings "The King of Old Broadway" where he reminisces about the old days and in "We Can Do It" sings in counterpoint with Leo Bloom about how to pull off their scam in five steps. 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 the two million dollars and fly to Rio. Ryan acts up a storm in this role, giving a tour-de-force performance. His show stopping number "Betrayed" occurs near the end of the show where he sings snippets of every song up to that point because Max thinks Leo left him to rot in jail. This number is reminiscent of "The Legacy" from "On the Twentieth Century." Near the start of the show while Max waits for his little old lady who he sthups before stealing her money, in walks accountant, Leo Bloom, fantastically played by Jared Robinson. He is dressed up to look like the world's biggest nerd and carrying a blue security blanket with him. Both Jared and Ryan have excellent voices and are topnotch comedians. Leo realizes his life is going nowhere as an accountant in "I Wanna Be a Producer" where he does a terrific tap dance with chorus girls. Together with Ryan, he brings down the house with "We Can Do It" when they decide to team up and later in "Where Did We Go Right?" when the show is a success instead of a failure. The most sentimental song is "Til Him" when Leo returns to help Max at his trial. They both end up going to prison for five years, create a show there with the convicts called "Prisoner of Love" as they dance around in prison garb. However a happy ending finds Max and Leo walking off into the sunset ala Rose and Louise at the end of "Gypsy" or like Georges and Albin at the end of "La Cage Aux Folles." Bravo to both actors in these two demanding roles.

Max and Leo finally find the author of the worst play, Franz Liebkind, excellently played by John Silveira. He gets to display his strong voice in "Old Bavaria", "Der-Guten Tag Hop Clop", Hitler's supposed favorite song and "Have You Ever Heard the German Band?". At the end of the Hop Clop number as Franz raise his index finger, Max and Leo give him the middle finger. Franz constantly threatens them by saying to betray Hitler is punishable by death. Franz later appears winning the role of Hitler, only to break his leg and finally threatens Max, Leo, Roger and Carmen with a gun. He is arrested and sent to Sing Sing. After they secure the author they go down to the townhouse of Roger DeBris, the worst director in New York and a flamboyant homosexual to boot. Played splendidly in high camp by Tyler Rowe who has a strong baritone voice. He wears a hilarious evening gown that looks like the Chrysler Building, a headress and a red wig. Tyler's conga line is hysterical as they introduce themselves during "Keep It Gay." They are Diogo Ventura as Bryan, the leather wearing set designer, Steven Chandler as Kevin, the costume designer, Dan Rezendes as Scott, the choreographer who wears tight spandex with a constant hard on sewn in it and Janet Silveira Maynard as the glum lesbian lighting designer, Shirley. Tyler's "Springtime for Hitler" as Hitler is hilarious as he comes down stage while singing to the audience and then confronts FDR, Churchill and Stalin with comic results.

Another scene stealer in a show of scene stealers is Dan Guay as Carmen Ghia. His antics are a hoot as is when he drags out the s at the end of his words as Max and Leo enter the apartment as well as when he exits while doing a grand jete. Dan and Tyler's antics as this wacky couple make for many laugh out loud moments. They also sing "It's Bad Luck to say Good Luck on Opening Night" with Ryan and Jared. Jenna Tremblay as Ulla, is a tall, statuesque brunette who wears a blonde wig to play the sexy bombshell. Leo and Max lust after her during the show. Ulla auditions for them with "If You Got It, Flaunt It" and does an excellent dance to this song and does a split at the conclusion of it. During the second act, she and Jared sing a tender duet called "That Face" when Leo falls in love with Ulla as they do a marvelous dance ala Fred and Ginger during it. Nishan Lawton leads "Springtime for Hitler" number, the most well known song in the show. The dirty old ladies are lead by Cathy Taitz as Hold-Me-Touch-me, who with the other old ladies do a dance with their walkers that stops the show in "Along Came Bialy" that ends Act 1. She also has a hilarious scene with Ryan called the milkmaid and the well hung lad. Cathy is hilarious in this role. This show is filled with many show stopping moments, so run do not walk to the box office to see "The Producers" at Little Theatre of Fall River. Tell them Tony sent you. Kudos to the fantastic dancers who learned all the fabulous and comical dances for this show. The beautiful costumes are by Paula Arruda who is directing "Hairspray" next season.

THE PRODUCERS (19 to 22 May)
Little Theatre of Fall River, Bristol Community College, 777 Elsbree St, Fall River, MA
1(508)675-1852 or www.littletheatre.net




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