The Producers (Village Theatre)

Posted on July 10, 2012

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Brian Earp (Leo Bloom),
Richard Gray (Max Bialystock)
Photo by Jay Koh.
Property of Village Theatre.

The Fourth of July may be over but the fireworks are just beginning at The Village Theatre of Everett, as on July 6th it kicked off its run of the farcical musical “The Producers” adapted from the book and film written by Mel Brooks and Tony Sheehan. The powerhouse show started out in Issaquah back in May to rave reviews and does not show any signs of stopping or letting down as it continues its entertainment dominance northward, initiating its blitzkrieg assault on your funny bone in Everett. From this reviewer’s perspective the musical farce extraordinaire has not lost a step as it continues its over-the-top, unabashedly shameless and nothing-is-sacred dominance which kept the audience rolling with laughter all night long.

A show about two dubious Broadway producers played by Richard Gray and Brian Earp, putting on an apparently doomed musical extolling the virtues of Hitler and the Nazi Party, paid for by overly amorous grandmothers looking for love in all the wrong places, seems an unlikely evening’s entertainment but thank heavens for unexpected pleasures. Regardless of your mindset prior to the show, “The Producers” is still able to produce a theatrical victory in the heart of audiences faster than the surrender of France in World War II.

The show’s tremendous success lies in a nearly perfect coming together of elements: visceral cast chemistry, talented choreography by Kristin Holland, strong vocal talent, unforgettable tunes (I am embarrassed to admit that I am still humming ‘Springtime for Hitler and Germany’), inspired writing and the abundance of memorable moments scattered throughout the show.

Ulla Dances and Sings Now

Brian Earp (Leo Bloom), Jessica Skerritt (Ulla),
Richard Gray (Max Bialystock)
Photo by Jay Koh.
Property of Village Theatre.

Richard Gray distinguishes himself as the loveably but slimy conman Max Bialystock, a role he seemed destined to play since birth. Brian Earp more than holds his own against the talented Gray, as the endearing anxiety ridden accountant but Broadway producer wannabe, Leo Bloom – conjuring up fond remembrances of Tony Shalhoub’s titular character, Adrian Monk. Together, Gray and Earp work and play off of each other extremely well and generate memorable moments singing, “We Can Do It”, “Where Did We Go Right” and “That Face”. Their trio of accomplices is completed with Jessica Skerritt’s naive yet sensual portrayal of the stunning Swedish secretary/aspiring actress, Ulla. She mesmerized the audience with her song and dance audition of “When You’ve Got It, Flaunt It“. I still hear her repeatedly saying ‘Bailystock and Bloom, Bailystock and Bloom’ in my mind.

Brian Earp (Leo Bloom), Richard Gray (Max Bialystock), Nick DeSantis (Roger Debris), Chris Ensweiler (Carmen Ghia) in THE PRODUCERS. Photo by Jay Koh.
Property of Village Theatre.

I would be remiss if I did not call out the strong supporting performances of Nick DeSantis and David Anthony Lewis. Nick DeSantis’ flamboyant interpretation of Roger Debris, whom Bialystock calls the worst director in New York, is called in to direct the Hitler themed musical by Bialystock and Bloom. He manages to steal every scene which he is in. He shines throughout, delights when on stage and his performance as a gay Hitler in the musical within the musical is both hysterical and memorable – one where you wish you could film it and watch it again. Highlights would be his performances of “Keep it Gay”, “Springtime for Hitler” and “Heil Myself”.

David Anthony Lewis embraces the challenge of playing former Nazi, Hitler sycophant, carrier pigeon keeper and aspiring playwright, Frank Liebkind. Complete with German World War II helmet and lederhosen, Lewis somehow manages to sing and dance his way into your heart. His rendition of “Der Guten Tag Hop Clop” and “Haben Sie Gehört Das Deutsche Band” are catchy and clearly he is in his element. The scene with him and his pigeons ranks amongst the most memorable in the show.

Brian Earp (Leo Bloom), David Anthony Lewis (Franz Liebkind), Richard Gray (Max Bialystock)
Photo by Jay Koh.
Property of Village Theatre.

There are so many gems in this production that I hesitate to try and mentioned them all, but in addition to the ones mentioned above, I was taken with the choreography and production of the grannies in “Along Came Bialy”. How often do we get to see synchronized dance squad using walkers? The highlight of the evening is the musical within the musical, “Springtime for Hitler” which is so over the top, that you will be doubled over with laughter. One memorable line was “Don’t be stupid, be a smarty/Come and join the Nazi Party“.

There may be times when it is difficult to figure out why a show just works, but this is not the case with “The Producers”. Clearly the genius and humor of Mel Brooks continues to shine even decades later as the play’s in-your-face attack on your sense of humor makes it nearly impossible to not give in and laugh, even if it is a somewhat guilty pleasure. The production does deal with mature elements but director Steve Tomkins successfully walks the fine line between offensive and satirical delight. The show is packed with snarky one-liners, inside Broadway references and humor throughout. Surrender is inevitable, so do not miss out on the preposterous fun which is “The Producers”.

The show runs from July 6-July 29th at the Everett Performing Arts Center managed by Village Theatre . For tickets, check out: https://everett.villagetheatre.org/TheatreManager/1/login&event=449

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