Written by Daniella Litvak
I am a fan of Mel Brooks’s works in general and of The Producers specifically. Before seeing The Producers at The Gem Theater I had already seen both the 1968 and 2005 film versions, listened repeatedly to the Original Broadway Cast recording, and seen the musical performed live. I know the story. More importantly, I like the story.
The Producers gleefully skewers Broadway and fascism at the same time that it sincerely celebrates friendship. Max Bialystock (Damien Lorton), the former King of Broadway, is now the laughing stock of Broadway because the only type of show the man can produce is a flop. Leo Bloom (Alex Bodrero) is an accountant who doesn’t realize he wants something more out of life. While reviewing Max’s books, Leo makes a startling discovery: a producer could make more money with a flop than with a hit. Max seizes upon the idea. All they need to do is find the worst play, hire the worst director, raise the money, and they’ll be closing before intermission. How can this go wrong?
Max and Leo’s relationship is the heart of the show. Once I saw Lorton and Bodrero perform together in the initial “Leo has a hysterical breakdown scene,” I knew I could sit back and relax because they play off one another brilliantly. Their acting and singing is also top-notch. Special mention goes to their performance of the physical comedy. Every fight, pratfall, and ridiculous walk brought the laughs.
Matching that are the performances from Robert Edward and Chris Harper in the fan favorite roles of director Roger De Bris and playwright Franz Liebkind. In their roles they are enthusiastic and over-the-top. Every time they take the lead in a musical number, it’s exhilarating. Claire Perry and Peter Crisafulli play Ulla and Carmen Ghia. While they get less time and attention than the other leading characters, Perry and Crisafulli make the most of it, and The Producers would be a lesser show without their presence.
Since the show is reliant on sight gags, the look of The Producers is very specific. Fortunately, this production featured all of The Producers’ iconic costumes. I was especially pleased with the “Grand Duchess Anastasia” costume.
The show was chock full of with humor — both the high and low brow varieties. (Warning: this show features material meant for mature audiences). It has spectacle and heart. Whether you’re seeing The Producers for the first or umpteenth time, you’ll be rolling in the aisles.
Sep 27 – Oct 21, 2018