BWW Reviews: Arizona Broadway Theatre's THE PRODUCERS Has IT and Flaunts IT - A Virtual Cornucopia of Standout Performances
The Producers is Mel Brooks' irreverent and satirical but ever-loving homage to Broadway show biz. Twice as a film (1968 and 2005) and then as a multiple Tony Award winner for its musical version (premiering on Broadway in 2001), it has etched into the minds of theatregoers some of the most memorable if not outlandish concepts, characters and lines ever.
It is nearly impossible not to measure later performances of Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom against Mostel and Wilder or Lane and Broderick...BUT, not so impossible when Michael McAssey and Jared Mancuso take the stage in Arizona Broadway Theatre's production of this theatrical gem and lead a cast of performers any one of whom can steal the show:
Nicole Benoit, lithe, leggy, and sexy as the ineffably naïve but seductive Swedish bombshell, Ulla, whose vampish rendition of "When You've Got It, Flaunt It" is one of several show-stopping moments;
Greg Kalafatas demonstrates once again his comic range and versatility as the quirky Franz Liebkind, the unrecovered Nazi playwright of Springtime for Hitler: A Gay Romp with Adolf and Eva at Berchtesgaden ~ the unseemly musical that needs to fail in order to fulfill Bloom's proposition that a producer can make more money with a flop than a hit. It's a joy to watch Kalafatas strut his stuff on stage, no less as he enjoins Max and Leo in performing the hilarious Der Guten Tag Hop Clop.
To be assured of the flop they need to make a million, Bialy and Leo reach out to the worst director around, aptly named Roger De Bris, played with delicious flamboyance by Michael Moeller, who later dishes out a fancy pants mockery of Der Fuehrer that will have you rolling in the aisle.
Morgan Reynolds is priceless as Carmen Ghia, De Bris's loyal assistant, undulating around and about the stage like Cleopatra's asp.
When it's showtime for Springtime, all the stops are pulled out and Brooks' madcap vision comes to life. It's high camp with heavy doses of appropriate flare and irreverence, showgirls bedecked with tributes (oversized pretzels and tankards and tanks) to Bavaria and the Reich), and caricatures that diminish evil by mocking it.
Ultimately, it is the chemistry between the salacious Bialystock and the feckless Bloom that welds this musical into a seamless and, in this instance, flawless production.
Celebrating its 10th Anniversary Season as a destination point for the performing arts in the West Valley, ABT made a smart, a very smart, move in engaging Clayton Phillips as the show's director. He truly understands the mind and message of Mel Brooks and has honored him by serving up a well-executed and thoroughly delightful must-see production.
The show runs through November 9th.
Photo credit to Arizona Broadway Theatre