BWW Review: Delightfully Outrageous and Incorrect: The PRODUCERS at Biddeford City Theater
It is almost fifty years since the original Mel Brooks film and seventeen since the Broadway stage version of Mel Brook's hilarious and outrageously funny, totally incorrect musical, The Producers, hit the stage. And despite it, or perhaps because of the contentious climate in which we live, this glorious tonic of laughter and colorful characters still rings true and commands a wrapt audience. Biddeford city Theater's production, directed by Linda Sturdivant, provides a delightful afternoon escape into the world of parody, spoof, and Broadway innuendo.
The production is a large one for this ambitious community theatre, and they rise admirably to the challenge. Sturdivant directs and produces with a sure hand and a very balanced sense of humor - Mel Brooks requires a deft touch, despite the overt quality of his comedy. She expertly captures the iconic moments, keeps the stage pace, moves the action, and helps the cast establish the colorful characters.
Music Director, Rebekkah Willey, does a remarkable job with the other seven musicians in the orchestra, placed high aloft and to the rear of the large-scale set. The playing is lush, balanced, keeps the action moving through some requisite set changes and lends a strong foundation to the production.
Choreographer Mariel Roy does an excellent job working with professional and non-professional dancers. Her choreography shows everyone off to advantage, appearing cleverly more complex than it is with appealing stage pictures that create the razzle dazzle needed. And in the case of a true dancer like Elizabeth Lester, she lets the dances speak eloquently,
The uncredited set design (builders/painters credited) is ambitious, beautiful to behold, and despite its size (and the limitations of the theatre) relatively agile in its a movements. The orchestra vamps appealing through any longer scene transitions, and by and large, all are made with the requisite smooth haste. The use of supplementary projections to underscore some comedic points is well done (the slide show of Bialystock and Bloom hits) Barbara Kelly's costumes create character; Daniel Brodhead's lighting design moves effectively through the different locales, while Jason Phelps' sound design is overall effective in the hall's acoustic, though an occasional singer microphone faded out inopportunely.
The cast is built on strength. In the central roles of Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom, Brian McAloon and Miles Gervais display strong vocalism, lively and contrasting characters and complete command of the stage in their moments. Mc Aloon's sense of the parody is strong, and he brings down the house vocally in a no holds barred "Betrayed." So much so, that he can be forgiven for not even attempting the Jewish/Zero Mostel overlay of the role. Gervais brings a winsome, vulnerable, nerdy, yet underlying romantic presence to Leo Bloom, and his "blossoming" (forgive the pun) is lovely to watch. Caleb Lacy revels in the meaty, over-the-top numbers for neo-Nazi Franz Liebkind, singing powerfully, and capturing every element of the caricature down to a perfect accent. Elizabeth Lester is stunning as Ulla (with too many other names). An elegant dancer with a strong comic presence, she inhabits the role making the silly character more than a cartoon. Tommy Waltz is brilliant as Carmen Ghia, the director Roger deBris' gay lover - fey, funny, and filled with attitude! Michael Donovan in the plum role of Roger debris has his moments of humor, but he is, regrettably the weak link in this cast. He fails to convey the sexy other half of the duo with Carmen Ghia, and his outrageousness is more camp than believably character.
The ensemble is large and talented with Schuyler White a standout in the first part of "Springtime for Hitler," Danielle Robichaud and Alison Loughlin as pert showgirls, and Carol Jones in a character cameo as Touch Me/Feel Me.The remainder of the cast contributes their all: Gayle Ayres, Andrew bennington, Brianna Chu, Nina Finocchiaro, Braden Foley, Kaleigh Hunter, Jay W. Jones, Andrew Lamb, Logan Merrithew, Mark Nahorney, Valerie Nahorney, Caleb Stedwick, Aislinn Travis, Ann Williams, and Tad Williams.
City Theater continues to acquit itself with honors, presenting interesting, diverse, challenging repertory with high quality performance values.
Photographs courtesy City Theater
The Producers runs at the City Theater, Biddeford, 205 Main St., Biddeford, until August 5th. www.citytheater,org 207-282-0849