If you ask me…

- Tom Holehan

“The Producers” on stage at Ivoryton Playhouse

The Tony Award winning Mel Brooks spectacular, “The Producers”, is currently enjoying its final performances this weekend at the Ivoryton Playhouse. If you’re looking for a tuneful way to beat the summer heat, a trip to the Playhouse is one.

“The Producers” is Mel Brooks’ outrageous, gleefully vulgar musical version of his classic 1968 film It concerns the farcical get-rich-quick plan by shifty producer Max Bialystock to raise too much money for a play he knows will fail. In his scheme he enlists the aid of meek tax clerk, Leo Bloom, who has always dreamed of being a big-time Broadway producer. The two seemingly strike gold when they find the perfect (meaning “worst”) play, an atrocity called “Springtime for Hitler” written by nutty Nazi Franz Liebkind.

At Ivoryton, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this season, the musical often seems a little too big for the company to handle. The numerous sets have been scaled back yet still look crowded on the Ivoryton stage. Big production numbers are presented serviceably but, lacking the space, they never seem to reach their full potential. Designer Vivianna Lamb, however, deserves credit for keeping up with the musical’s many costuming demands.

For better or worse, director Julia Kiley has pushed her entire cast to go for broke. Ivoryton favorite R. Bruce Connelly takes on the lead role of Max immortalized by Zero Mostel on film and Nathan Lane on Broadway. He has played the part before so it’s surprising that Connelly still makes it look like such hard work. He was far too anxious to please at the performance I caught even while his vocals remained consistently strong. As Leo, Michael McDermott is a handsome leading man attempting to play nerdy sidekick. That he succeeds more often than not is testament to the skill of this fine actor/singer.

Liz Clark Golson, as the producers’ sex bomb Swedish secretary Ulla, is a hoot managing to be both funny and sexy especially singing her big number, “When You’ve Got It Flaunt It”. In other roles, William Broderick is a highlight playing a woefully untalented, cross-dressing director with Mark Woodard a laugh-riot as the equally untalented playwright. Kudos also to musical director John DeNicola who makes his small pit band sound big time. The end result? The packed house at Ivoryton had a great time.

“The Producers” continues through July 31st at the Ivoryton Playhouse. For further information and ticket reservations call 860.767.7318 or visit: www.ivorytonplayhouse.org.

Tom Holehan is Co-chairman of the Connecticut Critics Circle and Artistic Director of Stratford’s Square One Theatre Company. He welcomes comments at: tholehan@yahoo.com. His reviews and other theatre information can be found on the Connecticut Critics Circle website: www.ctcritics.org.

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