BWW Review: THE PRODUCERS at Broward Stage Door Theatre
Last fall, the Broward Stage Door Theatre moved from its aging two-theatre complex in Margate to the newly-built Lauderhill Performing Arts Center. This move allowed the Stage Door to select musicals that were larger in scope and scale than shows they were previously able to present in Margate. At the new theatre, The Stage Door wowed audiences with its productions of La Cage Aux Folles, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, and The Wiz. Recently, the Stage Door opened the 12-time Tony-Award-winning musical The Producers.
Based on Mel Brooks' 1968 film of the same name, The Producers tells the story of two unlikely business partners coming together to intentionally mount the biggest Broadway flop. Max Bialystock (played by Ken Clement) is a producer who is struggling financially following the premature closing of Funny Boy, a musical adaptation of Shakespeare's Hamlet. When mousey accountant Leo Bloom (played by TJ Lamando) comes into Max's office to do his bookkeeping, he discovers that Max could theoretically make more money with a flop than he could with a hit. Bialystock and Bloom then set out to present the worst play ever written. They ultimately select Springtime for Hitler, written by neo-Nazi Franz Liebkind (played by Michael Biggs). After hiring the worst director in town, raising two million dollars from little old ladies, and casting the worst actors in New York, will these dishonest producers keep their money and fly to Rio?
As Max Bialystock, Clement gives a performance that screams "Lord, I Want That Money!" Clement adds a sense of despair and vulnerability to his character, causing the audience to sympathize with Max's ulterior motives. During Act Two, Clement showcases his brash baritone voice and his most unrestrained acting choices during the musical number "Betrayed," where Max is seen in a jail cell awaiting trial for fraud. During the number, Max summarizes all the events that take place throughout the musical, including the show's intermission. Clement even performs an improvisatory bit where he makes references to both Hamilton and Maroon 5's Super Bowl halftime performance.
Lamando delivers an innocent and wholesome interpretation of Leo Bloom. As a singer, Lamando's tenor voice fits the role perfectly with a pleasant and bright tone. As an actor, Lamando plays with the varying dynamics of his role-transitioning relatively quickly from naive to charismatic to frantic. His chemistry with Clement's Max Bialystock is also spot-on, especially during numbers like "We Can Do It," "Where Did We Go Right," and "Till Him." While Lamando is a newcomer to South Florida, one hopes that he will continue to showcase his acting and vocal talents in the region.
In the role of Franz Leibkind, Biggs fails to make the bold and reckless choices associated with his Hitler-sympathizing character. While his voice is smooth as butter during numbers like "In Old Bavaria" and "Haben Sie Gehört Das Deutsche Band," Biggs could have explored Franz's physicality and vocal quirks in greater depth.
As the flamboyant director Roger DeBris, Larry Buzzeo creates a character that seems relatively one-dimensional at first. While his performance in "Keep It Gay" was not seen as memorable (despite wearing a dress with high heels), it was Buzzeo's goofy and Judy Garland-esque performance in "Springtime for Hitler" that left audiences roaring with laughter.
As Roger's common-law "assistant" Carmen Ghia, Frank Vomero creates a physically and vocally dynamic performance. Every hand gesture and facial expression is meticulously chosen as Vomero slithers onstage in his black turtleneck and skinny jeans. He speaks with a slow tempo, giving Carmen Ghia a sense of mystique.
Melissa Jones gives a seductively cute performance in the role of Ulla Inga Hansen Benson Yonzen Tallen-hallen Sladen-svanson (Ulla for short). The minute she walks into Max's office for her "audition," Jones does not disappoint audiences with her dance moves-performing splits and teases throughout the number "When You Got It, Flaunt It." As Ulla, Jones' chemistry with Lamando's Leo Bloom is also evident throughout the show. There is a sense of puppy love between the two actors onstage, especially during the ballroom dance number "That Face." However, Jones' vocal technique seemed to be lacking at times, losing breath near the end of "When You Got It, Flaunt It."
This production's ensemble of sixteen served as the backbone of this show during some crucial numbers. In the Act One Finale, these singers and dancers appear as the little old ladies who invest in Max's plays with the promises of one last roll in the hay. During this scene in Little Old Lady Land, audiences can expect the strongest dancing of the evening, with old ladies performing pirouettes and cartwheels, along with the number's famous tap-dancing walkers. Throughout the show's eleven-o-clock number, "Springtime for Hitler," the ensemble performs with high energy, tapping with rhythmic accuracy and clean steps. Unfortunately, as singers, the ensemble had difficulty maintaining blend and balance during numbers like "Opening Night" and "The King of Broadway."
Scenic designer Randall Parsons gives The Producers a two-dimensional aesthetic. The primary element in Parsons' design is a silhouette cutout of the New York City skyline, which stands immediately in front of the stage cyclorama. This serves as the default look for most of the show, with various set pieces moved on and off stage for scene changes. This simplified design choice allowed for quick and cinematic transitions. Lenora J. Nitikin's costume design stays true to the original production, dressing the cast in attire appropriate for 1959 New York. Guy Haubrich takes advantage of the Lauderhill Performing Arts Center's moving light fixtures to create glitzy and glamorous light cues that one would commonly find in a musical comedy.
The Broward Stage Door Theatre is slowly but steadily growing into its new Lauderhill home. The Producers is a show that can challenge any major regional theatre with its performance and technical demands. The Stage Door has taken on said challenge with grace. Throughout the show's month-long run, audiences have laughed at the show's timeless Mel Brooks humor and were moved by some high-quality performances. If you wish to see The Producers, it closes on Sunday, February 10. So get your tickets today!
The Broward Stage Door Theatre
Original direction and choreography on Broadway by Susan Stroman.
Directed by Clayton Phillips. Music Direction by David Nagy. Choreographed by Danny Durr.
Featuring: Michael Biggs, Allison Blanchard, Larry Buzzeo, Ken Clement, Marty Craft, Varsee Damien, Alexandria Garcia, Luis Gomez, Stephen Hohendorf, Melissa Jones, Sarah Rose Knoche, TJ Lamando, Caiti Marlowe, Cristopher Morucci, Cat Pagano, Vincent Pelligrino, Jacob Rice, Laura Titus, Dyllan Vallier, Alexandria Van Hasselt, Frank Vomero, Shanna L. Woods.
Scenic Design by Randall Parsons. Costume Design by Lenora J. Nitikin. Lighting Design by Guy Haubrich.
Opened: January 18, 2019. Closes February 10, 2019.
At the Lauderhill Performing Arts Center, located at 3800 Northwest 11th Place, Lauderhill, FL 33311.
Tickets are $48 and $58.
For more information or to purchase tickets, please call 954-344-7765, or go online to stagedoorfl.org.