Theatre Review

‘The Producers’ produces laughs at TBTS

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No doubt about it, Mel Brooks is one funny man. His Tony Award-winning musical comedy, “The Producers,” is packed with lots of his famous “schtick.” The musical comedy, which received more Tony Awards than any other show, is a combination of one-liners, physical comedy, political incorrectness and vaudeville. If there is a problem with the show, it is its excessiveness, which leads to a long three hours of entertainment.

Once again, Bill Hanney, himself a producer, spares no expense with costumes, sets and actors, creating magic on the Theatre-by-the-Sea stage.

You know the story: Broadway producer Max Bialystock (Joel Briel), fresh off his latest bomb, teams with Leo Bloom, a young and naïve accountant (Richard LaFleur), to produce a major flop and get rich quick by pocketing the money he raises from little old ladies. The show, “Springtime for Hitler,” becomes a smash hit, causing major problems for the unlikely team.

Add a gorgeous blonde secretary to the mix, setting up a love affair between Ulla (Sabrina Harper) and Leo, and you have the setup for a few love songs to go with some clever parodies.

“The Producers” is one big parody. No one is spared, including homosexuals, Nazis, politicians, accountants, senior citizens and, of course, producers. There’s a bit of irony in the timing of a comedy about Nazis, looking at what is going on in our country right now, and the fact that Brooks wrote the script for the film back in 1968 adds to the irony. I cringed at the sight of the swastika, and it took a few minutes to buy into the tour-de force. Whoever added the term “Fake News” to the script found a perfect way to bring the story into perspective.

While the musical is a bit long and over the top, there are some classic scenes, including the choreography of “little old ladies” dancing with their walkers and pigeons joining in on a silly song, sung by the Nazi scriptwriter (a hilarious A.G. Parks).

When I use the term “over the top” I don’t use it lightly. The silly song “Keep It Gay” pulls out all the stops, with Stuart Marland’s gay director floating around the stage with his entourage of gay characters. If any of this offends you, skip “The Producers” and find a production of “Mary Poppins.”

If you want to laugh at our foibles and make fun of a nasty side of our heritage, which is showing its ugly head today, go see “The Producers,” which runs through September 10 at Matunick’s Theatre-by-the-Sea. For reservations call 782-8587. Tickets are $46-$72.

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