Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Producers

If you want something to tickle your funny bone, do catch director Steve Isaacson's rollicking production of 'The Producers,' a first for the Davis Musical Theatre Company.

If you've just returned from a deserted island and have no idea that this delicious show was written by Mel Brooks, it wouldn't take more than a scene or two to figure it out. This is the show that Brooks has wanted to write his entire life: the musical that we've briefly glimpsed in several of his movies ... especially, of course, the 1968 comedy from which the plot of this show was taken.

'The Producers' is a fast-paced laugh from start to finish, with enough material to offend just about everyone: Jews, Nazis, old ladies, dumb blondes, corporate drones and just about anyone in between. And yet it's all done with such a sense of fun that you're amazed at the things that make you laugh.

It's burlesque all grown up.

For those few who may not have seen Brooks' original film, the story centers around Max Bialystock, a formerly successful producer who now can't get a hit to save his life, and who has become famous for his flops. DMTC's Martin Lehman doesn't quite have the bombast of Zero Mostel (but then who does?), but he's very funny in a role that seems perfect for him.

Into Max's office walks mild-mannered accountant Leo Bloom (Andy Hyun), who carries a strip of his baby blanket around in his pocket, to soothe himself in times of stress. Bloom discovers that it's possible for a producer to make more money with a flop show than with a hit ... if they plan it properly.

Hyun makes a perfect Bloom, with the wide-eyed innocence of a man who can be perfectly molded by the likes of Max.

And, thus, the team of Bialystock and Bloom is born.

They need the worst play in the world, the worst director in the world, and a bunch of gullible, horny old ladies as backers. When the show fails, as it is destined to do, Bialystock and Bloom will take off with their millions, to sun themselves on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro.

Let the fun begin.

And fun it is. It's difficult to pick any one scene as the best, but ranking right up at the top would be the chorus of horny little old ladies whom Bialystock will woo for their money, all tap-dancing with their walkers. It's one of the most inventive bits of choreography I've ever seen, and DMTC choreographer Ron Cisneros adapts it beautifully from the original Broadway production.

While 'The Producers' centers on Bialystock and Bloom, they're surrounded by a host of perfectly cast supporting players. First up is Kyle Hadley, as the pigeon-raising Nazi, Franz Liebkind, whose script - 'Springtime for Hitler' - is chosen for performance.

Then there's the fabulous director, Roger DeBris, played in beautifully campy style by Richard Spierto, along with his partner Carmen Ghia (Joseph Boyette), who gives new meaning to the term 'flamboyant.' Newcomer Boyette is a real find for DMTC, and easily steals his scenes.

Amy Jacques-Jones is Ulla, the Swedish bombshell who can run an office, paint a room during intermission, and star in a musical all without mussing a blond curl. Jacques-Jones, another newcomer to DMTC, is a real triple-threat; she not only acts, but dances and sings beautifully as well.

Everyone behind the scenes has pulled out all the stops for this production. Jean Henderson's costumes are outstanding, especially for the Busby Berkeley number. Dannette Vassar has concocted some pretty dramatic lighting, particularly for Roger DeBris and Carmen Ghia. Isaacson's set design, while merely utilitarian, serves the production quite well.

The only place where the show falters concerns the orchestra, with some downright painful passages by a few instruments, loud buzzing and then a booming electronic piano that nearly drowned out the singers in the finale.

Fortunately, the performers worked around the problems in the pit, and the audience still was treated to one of the most enjoyable shows ever to come out of DMTC.

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