The Producers - Ivoryton Can Flaunt a Winner
By Bob and Karen Isaacs
The Producers - the Mel Brooks adaptation of his hit comedy-- was a smash hit when it opened on Broadway. At the Ivoryton Playhouse where it is playing through July 31, it is also a smash hit. And while ticket prices on Broadway ranged up to $400, it is much more affordable and just as enjoyable at Ivoryton.
Praise must be heaped on everyone involved: Jacqueline Hubbard, producer/artistic director, for undertaking such a large show, hiring so many fine Equity performers, and budgeting for a six member orchestra; director Julia Kiley and her production team for working miracles with the small Ivoryton stage.
If you've forgotten the story, it is a slapstick comedy including a lot of burlesque and vaudeville humor; a typical Mel Brooks show. It is about Max Bialystock, a down-on-his-luck Broadway producer, who with a diffident young partner (Leo Bloom) - even the names are jokes - decides to produce the "worse musical ever" and to raise more money (earned by Max for providing romance to elderly women) than needed. The scam - the show will flop and they'll keep the extra money.
So, they find the play - "Springtime for Hitler," a sympathetic portrait of Der Fuehrer written by a delusional Nazi. They hire a director (Roger de Bris) and his team who have a predilection for creating "gay" works. And they meet Ulla, a Swedish bombshell whom they hire as secretary/actress and for whom they both lust. The kicker, of course, is that their "guaranteed failure" is a smash hit which leaves them in financial/legal trouble. After all they sold 200 percent of the show to backers.
R. Bruce Connelly plays Max, a role he has played before ,and Michael McDermott is Leo. Both are excellent, though the day we saw it, Connelly seemed to start too fast and frantic; later he slowed down and was much better. His performance of the second act number "Betrayed" in which he retells the entire plot is hilarious. McDermott captures the insecure, shy accountant who is enchanted with show business (and Ulla); one of the most touching moments in the show is his rendition of "'Til Him" - where he urges a judge to be lenient with Max.
It is the supporting cast where the quality of this production really shows. William Broderick as Roger DeBris, the director, Schuler Beeman as his assistant Carmen Ghia, and Liz Clark Golson as Ulla, are all terrific. Broderick and Beeman and their associates bring the house down with "Keep It Gay." Golson does the same as the blonde bombshell (a variant of the sexy nurse of burlesque) with "When You've Got It, Flaunt It."
The leads and supporting actors are backed by a great ensemble of singers/dancers who play a variety of roles.
The Producers is a delight. Go see it and applaud Ivoryton for undertaking and succeeding with such a big production.
The Producers is at the Ivoryton Playhouse through July 31. For tickets and information contact the Playhouse at 860-767-7318 or online at www.ivorytonplayhouse.org.
This review appears in Shore Publishing Community Newspapers July 20, 2011 and online at Zip06.com.