By Mindy Pedlar
Now playing at Cabrillo Stage is Mel Brooks’ hilarious musical comedy, THE PRODUCERS, adapted from the Academy Award winning film of the same name. One reviewer described it as “a sublimely ridiculous spectacle that should be seen by everybody!”
Expertly directed and choreographed by Lee Ann Payne, the story concerns a theatrical producer, Max Bialystock (once known as the King of Broadway) and a mousy accountant, Leo Bloom, who comes to Max’s office to audit his books. Equity actor Chris Reber plays Max with energy, passion, great comedic timing and seemingly effortless charm.
Gary Shoenfeld is convincingly awkward and hysterically funny as the shy Leo, who comes alive as he reveals his lifelong dream of being a Broadway producer. The rapport and comradery between these two actors is a big part of what makes this production a joy to watch.
When Leo innocently muses that “under the right circumstances, a producer could make more money with a flop than he could with a hit,” the scheme to get rich by overselling interests in a Broadway flop is born. To insure that their show fails, they set out to find the worst play ever written. Enter talented and earnest Jordan Pierini, who shines as the x-Nazi playwright Franz Liebkind. Thrilled that someone wants to produce his musical, “Springtime for Hitler,” he agrees to give Bialystock & Bloom the rights only after they show their loyalty to the Fuhrer by joining him in a rousing rendition of “Der Guten Tag Hop Clop.”
Next Max and Leo set out hire the worst director in town, Roger De Bris, played with over-the-top magnificence by Walter Mayes. Mayes works beautifully with David Mister, who delights with his intense portrayal of Carmen Ghia, Roger’s “common law assistant.” Again, the rapport and chemistry of these actors adds to the comedic antics of this show.
Max raises the money through his backers, a bevy of little old ladies that sing and dance their pocketbooks out in the tribute, “Along came Bialy.” With its beautifully executed, funny and clever choreography, a set by Skip Epperson that feels as if it has been crocheted, and perfect mood lighting by Jake Maize, this number is a show stopper!
After a riotous scene of “auditions,” “Springtime for Hitler” is cast, complete with the producer’s secretary/receptionist, the stunningly Swedish Ulla, skillfully played by Jessica Whittemore. Ms. Whittemore’s rendition of “When You’ve Got It, Flaunt It” is not to be missed. For a time it looks like our producers’ plan might just work, but complications arise when the show unexpectedly turns out to be a hit, the basis for Max and Leo’s touching lament “Where Did We Go Right”? Though our heroes might have to spend some time behind bars, it inspires “Prisoners of Love” and all works out in the end.
The leads are ably supported by a strong ensemble of singer/actor/dancers playing various roles with conviction. Roger’s Production Team is a riot, and little old ladies have never been more charming, including the winsome Cheyenne Loftus as Hold Me-Touch Me. Soloist David Jackson’s beautiful voice deserves mention, as does Parise Zeleny who could not be cuter as part of a trio that tap their way into your heart.
Throughout the show we are treated to the lush sounds of a full, live orchestra. Artistic and Musical Director Jon Nordgren conducts, expertly punctuating every comedic song and movement. Kudos to Lee Ann Payne for putting this wonderful cast together, directing and choreographing with humor and heart. Praises also go to Costume Designer Maria Crush, who has outdone herself, dressing entire cast with style and, of course, humor.
Come enjoy Mr. Brooks’ comedic genius in this rip-roaring, knee-slapping musical comedy that won a record breaking twelve Tony Awards, but be prepared for playfully offensive jokes about just about everyone — gays, Jews, elders, the Irish and Germans to name just a few.
THE PRODUCERS runs July 26 through August 19 in the Cabrillo Crocker Theater on the Cabrillo College campus, 6500 Soquel Drive in Aptos. Order tickets on line at cabrillostage.com or at the Box office 831-479-6154. Box Office hours are 12:00 to 6:00 p.m., Thursday through Saturday.