Saturday, October 05, 2002

The Proudcers (Playhouse Square Center)

Touring version of 'THE PRODUCERS' convulses audience

If you like Mel Brooks’s comedic flair, if you love farce, slapstick, flashy dancing, creative staging and catchy music, you’ll love THE PRODUCERS THE NEW MEL BROOKS MUSICAL. Obviously New York loved the show. It won a record 12 Tony Awards and 11 Drama Desk Awards, and is still playing to sold out houses. Cleveland audiences anticipated loving it. Before opening night 80% of the tickets were sold. And love it they did. The intermission buzz indicated the audience was delighted. As one person yelled, "I’m having the time of my life. This is wonderful!"

What could not be wonderful? There are a chorus line of old ladies dancing with walkers, flapping pigeons singing backup, spouting water fountains, smoke and light effects, a chorus line of convicts, and a wonderful cast. This is funny stuff concocted in the mind of a genius comedic madman.

The musical is based on Brooks’ Academy Award winning 1968 film, THE PRODUCERS. It centers on the fortunes of Max Bialystock, an unsuccessful theatrical producer, and Leo Bloom, a nebbish accountant. They dream-up a scheme to raise money, produce the world’s worst musical staged by the world’s worst director, close the show quickly, and run off with the profits. The problem? Their choice, "Springtime for Hitler" turns out to be a smash hit and they wind up going to jail. "Springtime for Hitler?" That title’s offensive! Well, the entire production can be offensive if you don’t have a sense of humor. Brooks’ has written a play that is an equal opportunity political correct nightmare. He insults everyone...gays, Jews, Swedes, old ladies, World War II vets, hillbillies, blacks, and the Irish, just to name a few. But, it’s all done with overdone comedy and is hillarious.

Capsule judgement: Don’t be afraid that Cleveland is getting a "second rate" cast on the tour. People who saw and loved Nathan Lane and Mathew Broderick in the original cast say that Lewis Standlen and Don Stephenson are every bit as good, if not better. Standlen, who has a long history of being one of the best known of the "unknown" stars of Broadway, has appeared in many hits. Stephenson has an equally impressive record. They are good, very good.