by Don Church and Tony Schillaci, Critics On The Aisle
If Mel Brooks himself were reviewing the Ivoryton Playhouse’s latest show, “The Producers,” he might write…. “You want clichés – we got clichés! You want stereotypes we got stereotypes! You want dancing Jews and singing Nazis? – Got em!”
This rib-tickling musical romp insults everyone from gays to grays. But who can stay insulted when the material is so Brooksian funny?
As Mel once said, “Funny is Money!” Who can argue with that?
Director Julia Kiley and choreographer JR Bruno have set an explosion of enthusiasm and mirth into the gleefully over-the-top performances of a wacky first-rate ensemble. cast.
R. Bruce Connolly as Max Bialystock bounces through his well-understood character interpretation of the nearly insane producer with boundless energy and a booming voice worthy of Yiddish theater! His “The King of Old Broadway” and “Betrayed” are outstanding and memorable.
Wannabe producer Leo Bloom, as played by Michael McDermott, morphs from a sniveling angst-driven accountant to a confident show-biz mogul. McDermott’s top-hat- and-cane “I Wanna Be a Producer” and his “Till Him” exemplify his vocal talent.
During the action, prior to the opening night of the show-within-a-show, namely “Springtime For Hitler,” the producer tries to entice a faaaaabulous director to work on this terrible show in a très-gay scene and ensemble number worthy of “La Cage aux Folles.”
Leading the charge of floating queens onstage is Carmen Ghia, delightfully played and sung with a comedic swish and a scream by Schuyler Beeman. William Broderick plays Carmen’s employer, elegant theater director Roger DeBris. Get it? Broderick’s voice is mellifluous and his legs are outstanding, as he appears onstage in a luscious black cutaway gown. The” madness ensues as gay stereotypes of every kind proceed to limp wristedly sing “Keep It Gay” – and the cast does just that! We were convinced!
Before the end of the first act, via the wonderful performance of Liz Clark Golson as secretary/actress Ulla, insults are hurled at Swedes, tits, and blondes in her number “When You’ve Got It, Flaunt It.”
Germans are insulted by Mark Woodard’s turn as Franz Liebkind in “Der Gutten Tag Hop Clop,” and little old ladies are lampooned as sex-starved dummies cheerfully tap
dancing on walkers while singing “Along Came Bialy,” a boffo first-act closing number.
But wait, folks – you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!
The insanity reaches its apex with the opening number of the pseudo worst-show-ever aptly titled “Springtime for Hitler.” Milkmaids, lederhosen, clomping, goose-stepping and seig-heiling Nazis whirl about the stage in joyous Third Reich euphoria. Even the demonic Hitler sings “Heil Myself’ to show that he’s just one of SS boys! What could be wurst?
Even though it’s shocking to see the swastika so joyfully bandied about, Mr. Brooks manages to make damned fools of those damned Hitlerites and their insane leader. And although, Max Bialystock, the “producer” is actually hoping for his show to be a flop, it is, in reality, just like the real show at Ivoryton, a major hit. Who knew how much fun Jews, gays, Nazis, little old ladies, and homeless Broadway beggars could have on the stage all at the same time?
The orchestra conducted by John S. DeNicola provides a fine musical framework in the ensemble numbers “Opening Night,” “Prisoners Of Love” and the after-curtain-call song “Goodbye,” but some of the lyrics of solo numbers and duets were often drowned out by the too loud music. And a few of Tate R. Burmeister’s lighting cues went awry, especially when two performers were on opposite ends of the stage – the one on the left was twice in darkness. The other 99.9 percent of the lighting was character and scene appropriate.
Vivianna Lamb’s costumes and Tony Andrea’s sets blended perfectly with the idea of a schlock pseudo musical produced by a schlock producer. Both showed just the right amount of off-kilter clothes and scenery to make any investor wince. Wonderfully costumed Ulla, in her eye-popping re-decoration scene of Max’s office was sensational. Der German showgirls’ mad-Bavarian outfits brought belly laughs and the choruses’ ersatz Nazi uniforms made them look like the buffoons they represented.
If “funny is money” then there is no better investment in a good time than going to see to see one of the most ambitious and hilarious musicals ever produced at the Ivoryton Playhouse. Hop clop over and have a gut time!
Playing through July 31st, performances are Wednesday and Sunday matinees at 2 p. m. with evening performances on Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p. m, and Friday and Saturday at 8 p. m. Tickets are $40 for adults, $35 for seniors, $20 for students, and $15 for children. Call the Playhouse box office at 860-767-7318, or online at www.ivorytonplayhouse.org. Group rates are only available through the box office. The Playhouse is located at 103 Main Street in Ivoryton, Conn.
Copyright © 2011. Critics On The Aisle. All rights reserved.