Village Theatre's 'Producers' is full of pizazz
A review of the Village Theatre's production of Mel Brooks' comedy "The Producers," in Issaquah through July 1 and in Everett July 6-29.
Seattle Times theater critic
'The Producers'Through July 1, Village Theatre, 303 Front St. N., Issaquah; $22-$62 (425-392-2202 or www.villagetheatre.org).
THEATER REVIEW |
The Mel Brooks movie comedy "The Producers" was released in 1968, and swiftly bombed.
Most film critics hated it. (Pauline Kael wrote it off in The New Yorker as "amateurishly crude.") Audiences stayed away in droves.
But there were ardent fans of that marvelously tasteless tale of a third-rate theater producer and his nebbishy accountant, who scheme to get rich off a spectacularly bad musical called "Springtime for Hitler."
Brooks won an Oscar for his screenplay. And he had the last laugh when, full-circle, he transformed "The Producers" into a blockbuster Broadway musical that swept the 2001 Tony Awards.
Issaquah's Village Theatre is bringing all the pizazz at its command to bear in its first mounting of "The Producers," and this polished company has plenty to spare.
It took a few scenes, at least at a recent performance, to rev up the Borscht Belt buffoonery and repartee that should get the comic pistons firing quicker.
However Steve Tomkins' staging sparkles brightly in the show's spree of antic musical numbers. Most are in an old-showbiz style gleefully borrowed from the 1930s movie-musicals that co-writer (with Thomas Meehan) and composer Brooks fondly recalled from his youth — and adopted with some audacious, semi-perverse twists.
Here, sexed-up elderly ladies tap dance with their walkers. A hopelessly non-P.C. Swedish blonde secretary/sex toy slinks her stuff. A chorus of morbidly depressed accountants drones a tune, and a coop full of pigeons trips the light fantastic.
And, of course, there's "Springtime for Hitler," a number echoed from the film, which has goose-stepping Nazis and fascist chorus girls paying cringe-worthy homage to the Führer.
All this nonsense the Village pulls off with flash and aplomb.
The dance numbers, with glitzy costumes and smartly choreographed by Kristin Holland Bohr, are executed with gusto by a tribe of hoofers. And if the score has few standout tunes, Richard Gray as the shady producer Max Bialystock, Brian Earp as his initially timid sidekick Leo Bloom, and Jessica Skerritt as the statuesque secretary Ulla belt out the pleasantly generic melodies and snappy lyrics with brio.
Gray is ever the winning entertainer, and after some initial strain he nails the rhythms of Max's wiseguy patter, and odorous brand of desperation, ego and lascivious sleaze.
Earp, a fine song-and-dance man, finds the comic frissons of Leo, the nervous Nellie schlep. He gets even more in the groove as Leo comes out of his shell, and musters his own moxie.
There's also some stand-out clowning by Nick DeSantis as an over-emoting director and Chris Ensweiler as his mincing "common law" factotum.
Both are cartoony gay stereotypes, but what do you expect from Mel Brooks? A woman once complained to him that the movie "The Producers" was vulgar. Brooks famously retorted, "Lady, it rose below vulgarity."
Misha Berson: firstname.lastname@example.org