Perhaps the reason the film version of the musical The Producers did not do so well as its Tony-award winning Broadway counterpart was because it lacked that special magic that only live theatre can give. Movie musicals like Hairspray have succeeded on the big screen, but the current trend seems to involve actual live performances streamed in movie theaters across the nation. And it's no wonder that people prefer the one-night-only streamed performances to Hollywoodized versions. While such broadcasts will never live up to the real thing, they contain a piece of the real thing that thrills our souls.
It's no wonder that Leo Bloom, a lead character in Hillbarn Theatre's production of The Producers, develops such a strong desire to become a producer after seeing a production in his youth. Theatre made him happy. And Hillbarn's production of Mel Brook's comedy contains so much talent, the hearts of audiences are bound to overflow with that same excitement and inspiration. A nonstop ride of laughter and fun, The Producers done right makes everyone want to be a producer.
Director Bill Starr, a Broadway veteran himself, has assembled an outstanding cast. With such talent, the crass jokes and few instances of bad language fly right by. The show has little to no point, and that's OK. Mel Brooks has created a musical easily defined as pure entertainment, and almost anyone can enjoy pure entertainment when strong singers and actors, creative choreography that never ceases to impress and slap stick jokes delivered in perfect timing. Even the completely community-based chorus of Hillbarn's production has enough energy and movement to create the illusion of Broadway-quality theatre as they precisely execute Gary Stanford Jr's creative choreography and, put together, boast tight sounds.
Dan Demers plays the washed up Broadway producer Max Bialystock, who recruits accountant Leo Bloom in a scheme to raise money for a show guaranteed to flop and keep the extra funds for themselves. Demers will remind audiences familiar with the musical of Nathan Lane, who originated the role on Broadway. But Demers does just enough to make his version of the character completely unique and utterly hilarious. Just as hilarious and even more entertaining, Luke Chapman frequently transitions from cool accountant to seemingly bipolar as Leo Bloom fights panic attacks with the power of his "blue blankey." Chapman's facial expressions, Starr's comedic staging, and on-stage chemistry between the leading actors create an atmosphere that makes it impossible to dislike. As the icing on the cake, both Chapman and Demers please with excellent singing voices.
The Producers is that perfect comedy that will make audiences laugh hard enough to hurt. Contributing to that laughter are supporting actors Ron Lopez, Jr. as Franz the Nazi playwright, Raymond J. Mendonca as Roger DeBris, the worst director in the history of Broadway, and Greg Lynch as DeBris's assistant, Carmen Ghia, who, along with a posse of strange characters in interesting costumes, encourages DeBris to "Keep it Gay." Mendonca, the only equity actor in the production, gives a particularly priceless rendition of "Heil Myself" following a follies inspired lineup of female beauties sporting various German specialities, including pretzels, sausage and beer.
If the spark of live theatre is what keeps the audiences coming, Hillbarn has plenty of it. The company never ceases to impress as it conquers the limits of community theatre and consistently provides first-rate productions. The Producers is no exception.
Through May 27