TR Robertson — It’s bawdy, a bit irreverent, non-stop action and drop dead hilarious as Moonlight Productions opened their 39th Season with Mel Brooks Tony and Drama Desk Award winning musical, “The Producers”. Audiences are warned that the musical is for mature audiences and with good reason as sexual innuendos, colorful language, over-the-top flamboyant gay characters and, oh yes, a musical tribute to Hitler fill the stage with one of the funniest musicals ever produced.
“The Producers” is actually adapted from Brooks’ 1967 film of the same name. The comedy won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. Brooks and Thomas Meehan would make a few changes for the stage and with lyrics by Brooks and music by Brooks and Glen Kelly and Doug Besterman the musical would win 12 Tony Awards and 11 Drama Desk Awards, making it one of the most honored Tony Productions of all time. The film had starred Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel in the main roles and the musical would open on Broadway in 2001 starring Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick at the St. James Theatre, running for 2,502 performances.
Photos by Ken Jacques
This is Moonlight’s first production of “The Producers” and they certainly did it right. A cast of 22 extremely talented performers, led by two Broadway veterans, were non-stop in their presentation of this satirical comedy. Along with this, Moonlight was fortunate to use the sets and costumes from Broadway’s national touring production of “The Producers” which will especially “wow” the audience in one particular scene in Act II.
The premise of the musical centers on the down and out producer Max Bialystock stumbling upon a scheme, unwittingly uncovered by his phobic accountant, Leo Bloom. The scheme involves the strategy of #1) Finding the worst play ever written, #2) Hiring the worst director in town, #3) Raising two million dollars, primarily from little old ladies, #4) Hiring the worst actors to open on Broadway and #5) Closing on Broadway the first night , taking the money and going to Rio. The pair find a musical, “Springtime for Hitler”, find the director and cast, open on Broadway and the play, although outrageous, is a huge hit, landing Max in deep trouble with his bills and prison bound and Leo falling in love with their sexy Swedish secretary, Ulla, and escaping to Rio. But that’s not the end, see the musical to find out what happens.
Directing “The Producers” and in one of the lead roles is Broadway veteran Larry Raben as the phobic, introverted, shy accountant Leo Bloom. Raben returns to Moonlight having played Bloom on Broadway and formerly appearing on the Moonlight Stage. Playing the other lead role is Jamie Torcellini as the conniving, unscrupulous, old-lady womanizing, washed-up producer Max Bialystock. Torcellini has numerous Broadway roles under his belt and returns to Moonlight having performed in several musicals on the Moonlight Stage. The roles of Bloom and Bialystock require tremendous timing, a range of physical comedy, great facial expressions, chemistry between the two leads and, of course, stand-out singing abilities. Put a check mark on each and every one of these requirements as Raben and Torcellini hit the mark on each and every one of these as they present a classic performance in these two iconic and memorable characters.
A strong supporting cast is also needed and Moonlight has also hit the mark in this production with talented Katie Barna as the sexy Swedish secretary Ulla. This is Barna’s debut on the Moonlight Stage. She stands out in “When You Got It, Flaunt It” and as Bloom’s love interest. Josh Adamson, as the flamboyant producer Roger De Bris, and Max Cadillac as his “secretary”, Carmen Ghia, bring an admirable performance to the characters Brooks would have wanted for his musical. Again, there is definitely a great chemistry and timing with these two and they are both audience favorites in the production. Both are Moonlight veterans. Adamson’s performance, as Hitler’s replacement, is unforgettable. Rounding out the leads in “The Producers” is Luke H. Jacobs, returning to Moonlight as Franz Liebkind, the Nazi-loving, pigeon raising writer of “Springtime for Hitler”. No one will leave the Moonlight Amphitheatre forgetting his performance on his Greenwich Village apartment rooftop with the pigeon puppets and with Max and Leo singing and dancing to “In Old Bavaria” and “Der Guten Tag Hop Clop”.
These might be the leads, but the performance by the rest of the cast cannot be overlooked as they are a major, integral part of what makes this musical one many people see time and time again. The dance numbers are most memorable, especially the Grannies walker routine with Max in “Along Came Bialy”. One of the most unforgettable scenes in musical theatre history is the hilarious, satirical entrance of the “Hitler girls” to “Springtime for Hitler”, with costumes like you have never seen before, and the swastika kick line, including a massive mirror to see the kick line from the top. Many in this cast are making their Moonlight Stage debut.
Raben’s Production Staff includes Stage Manager Stanley D. Cohen, Properties Master Bonnie Durben, Lighting Designer Jennifer Edwards, Assistant Stage Manager Andrew Gutierrez, Wig Designer Peter Herman, Makeup Designer Kathleen Kenna, Costume Coordination and Execution Carlotta Malone, Roslyn Lehman, & Renetta Lloyd, and Sound Designer Jim Zadai. Probably the busiest people behind the scenes prior to the opening and during the performance is Choreographer Karl Warden and Music Director and Conductor Lyndon Pugeda, performing and putting together the non-stop action, dance and fast paced musical numbers throughout this musical.
This funny, satirical, award winning classic is a should-not-miss musical. It will surprise many, shock a few, but it will provide a most entertaining evening at the theatre. “The Producers will continue thru June 29th on the Moonlight Amphitheatre Stage at 1250 Vale Terrace Drive. Tickets are available at 760-724-2110 or go to www.moonlightstage.com. Artistic Director Steven Glaudini announced, prior to the opening of “The Producers”, that the 2020 Season 40 will include 5 musicals – “An American in Paris”, “Something Rotten”, “Cinderella”, “Ragtime the Musical”, and “Kinky Boots”.