BWW Review: THE PRODUCERS Sizzles with Talent at the Central New York Playhouse
The Central New York (CNY) Playhouse is now entertaining audiences with its hilarious production of the record-breaking Tony Award-winning musical comedy, Producers. Sizzling with local talent under the superb direction of Dustin M. Czarny, the choreography, the casting, the sets, and, of course, the material itself does not disappoint.
Mel Brooks (Book, Music, Lyrics) and Thomas Meehan's (Book) musical is adapted from Brooks' 1967 film of the same name. It centers on two producers, Max Bialystock (Josh Mele) and Leo Bloom (Cole LaVenture), who realize that it is possible to make more money with a flop on Broadway than with a hit. Luckily, Max Bialystock seems to have the right track record of producing flops to pull the scheme off. The pair believes that if they find the right script (the kind that offends everybody) and hire the worst actors and directors, their plan will come to fruition without a hitch. So, do they find the flop they're dreaming of, or will their show be a hit?
Most know that this show is full of character acting (including over-the-top portrayals of gay people and Nazis), crazy accents, as well as many theatre jokes. The Central New York Playhouse, that "theatre in the mall," pulls off the production even with the director's self-admitted "lack of formal training...plowing ahead with the sheer confidence of ignorance and improvisation" as per the Director's note in the program. For somebody that seems to "lack the formal training" Czarny's direction of the Playhouse's musicals is always consistent - showcasing top-notch casting, effective set design, wonderfully staged scenes, and a hardworking tech crew. This show is no exception.
Musical Director Abel Searor once again leads the onstage nine-person orchestra that plays the fun music with power, skill, and energy. This time around, the orchestra did not overpower the performances which has often been a problem in this venue. Sound issues have plagued many past productions, but his time around Robert G. Searle's design works quite well. There were some actors that were hard to hear at times on the night I attended, but for the most part the lines and musical numbers could be heard much better than in the past.
The other artistic elements of the show make this production a great one. Liam Fitzpatrick's lighting design captures each crazy ambience. A show like this requires an entire costume design team because of the multiple costume changes and over the top characters. Dylinn Andrew, Diane Bates, Harlow Kisselstein, Liz Stanistreet, Barbara Toman, and Calico Yaworksi's costume selections are among some of the best that have graced the stage at the CNY Playhouse. Then there is the set design by Dustin M. Czarny and Christopher James Lupia it did not over power the stage, is detailed, and allows for vey fast and easy scene changes.
The entire cast puts on a fabulous and entertaining production. The big musical numbers are a particular highlight thanks to Lauren Puente's entertaining and energetic choreography. The energy, the devotion, and the chemistry make this cast a great one. The entire supporting ensemble has their own standout moments in production numbers such as "Opening Night," "I Wanna Be a Producer," "Keep it Gay," "Along Cam Bialy," "Springtime for Hitler," "Prisoners of Love," and many more.
As Max Bialystock, Josh Mele steals the entire show. Mele's vocals, spunk, expressions, comedic timing, and stage presence are perfection. Frankly, it is hard to pick a standout moment for Mele because he delivers impeccable renditions of all Bialystock's songs, including "The King of Broadway," "Along Came Bialy" (of course backed by the little old ladies dancing with the walkers), all of his duets alongside Cole LaVenture as Bloom, and the number that sums up the entire show, "Betrayed." Mele is a true professional and his performance is something that you would expect to see on a stage in New York City. It's truly astonishing.
Cole LaVenture delivers an entertaining performance as Leo Bloom, that awkward accountant that dreams of being a Broadway producer. On the night I attended, is line delivery was rushed at times and lacked enunciation, which made some of those funny moments hard to hear, mainly in Act I. There was much improvement in his line delivery in Act II though. His musical numbers showcase his vocals beautifully. His adorable charm really stands out in numbers such as "I Wanna Be a Producer," "We Can Do it," and "That Face." Mele and LaVenture have great comedic chemistry.
Calico Yaworski as Ulla, Leo and Max's blonde secretary/receptionist, entertains with a lot of confidence, charm, and spunk. Her number "When You Got it, Flaunt it," is always a fun and amusing number with the over the top choreography and she delivers a memorable rendition. "That Face," performed alongside Cole LaVenture, is a highlight as well.
Eric Feldstein is known for his character acting skills in the CNY community theatre scene so he was a spot-on casting choice for Franz Liebkind. His hilarious portrayal of the Nazi makes "Old Bavaria," "Haben Sie Gehört Das Deutsche Band," and, of course, "Der Guten Tag Hop-Clop" quite memorable. Christopher James Lupia, with his intoxicating performance, confidence, and hilarious antics, is perfection as Roger DeBris. He delivers great performances on "Keep it Gay," "Springtime for Hitler," and "You Never Say 'Good Luck' on Opening Night." Lupia has been cast in numerous productions at the Central New York Playhouse. He is among their top group of leading men - always entertaining to watch. Chris Toia delivers a standout, consistent, and perfectly over-the-top performance as Carmen Ghia, leaping and skipping across the stage.
The musical romp of The Producers at the Central New York Playhouse is in fact a hit for this theatre. Sizzling with talent under the smart direction of Dustin M. Czarny, it is a must-see.
Running time: Two hours and forty minutes with one twenty-minute intermission.
The Producers runs fthrough July 27, 2019 at the Central New York Playhouse located in the ShoppingTown Mall in Syracuse, New York. For tickets and information on this production and upcoming productions, click here.