The Producers: Absolutely Hilarious

Max Bialystock (left), portrayed by Jeremy Lancaster, with Leo Bloom (Clint McLachlan) during the matinée performance of “The Producers” on Sunday, January 27, 2013.
(Brady Knight / The Quill)

From January 24th to 27th, Brandon’s 7 Ages Productions brought to life the hilarious, and arguably offensive comedy, The Producers. Originally a 1968 film, The Producers was brilliantly adapted into a play by Mel Brooks (Blazing Saddles, Silent Movie, and Spaceballs) and Thomas Meehan (Annie and Hairspray), hitting Broadway with Nathan Lane (MouseHunt and voice roles in The Lion King) and Matthew Broderick (Farris Beuler’s Day Off) taking the reins as money-hungry Max Bialystock and the mewling, incompetent Leo Bloom.

“It is the most outrageously funny musical I have ever seen,” said 7 Ages director George Buri. “I saw it on Broadway in 2006 and have wanted to do it ever since.” (By George, aren’t we glad he did!) Fans of both the film, and 7 Ages Productions set the bar high, and Buri and his team rose to the challenge.

For a modestly-titled production, The Producers packs a distinct, arguably offensive punch. A “goldmine of satire, farce, and parody,” the play tossed all notions of political correctness out the window just as fast as unabashedly proud Neo-Nazi Franz Liebkind’s mechanical pet pigeons could flap their swastika-decorated wings. While leaving every age, gender, race, and culture pleasantly offended before the curtain’s final descent, one couldn’t help but feel slightly liberated by the production’s blunt antics. From an immaculately casted Max Bialystock portrayed by Jeremy Lancaster screaming, “Who do you have to fuck to get a break in this town?” only minutes in, to performers dancing in Nazi uniforms chanting, “Don’t be stupid, be a smarty: come and join the Nazi party!”, The Producers left no sensitive subject untouched and materialized every grossly offensive thought to cross the audience’s mind on stage. But as director George Buri said lightly, “It is a night of silliness.”

Phenomenally cast, every actor truly enabled the production to reach its full potential. “Casting this show was wonderful because all the perfect pieces fell into place,” Buri admitted. From Clint McLachlan’s impersonation of the quivering Leo Bloom, to Kenna Simpson’s brazen portrayal of Bialystock’s sexy Swedish assistant Ulla, to more minor roles like Trish Buri as a comical, sex-crazed elderly woman, each actor executed their role to near perfection. The Quill’s own Tye Dandrige-Evancio carried out a stunningly flawless portrayal of Carmen Ghia – definitely one of the most entertaining personalities in the production. Sean Keogh’s Franz Liebkind captivated the audience, rivalling the protagonists, especially during his “Nazi hoedown,” while 7 Ages regular Jeremy Lancaster wowed the audience with his Nathan Lane accent, which he sported for the entire play – even while playing around with other accents and singing.

“Our cast and crew are incredibly talented and devoted,” said Quill Editor in Chief Emily Diehl, who played one of Bialystock’s horny elderly patrons. “I’ve never been in a production that was so complicated, but everything has pulled together and it’s been great fun.”

The stage was elaborately decorated for every scene and the costumes were incredible. This was especially true for dance numbers such as the catchy “Springtime For Hitler,” where Ulla strutted down a set of stairs wearing a scandalous skin-toned leotard and enormous iridescent wings while Nazi banners hung behind her. The glamorously dressed Roger DeBris, Carmen Ghia, and their various associates fashionably stole the show, both in terms of their personal attire, and influence in “Springtime for Hitler.”

The musical numbers couldn’t have been more impressive. With an intricate dance featuring interlocking arms and rapid spinning during the opening number, and ornate lifts, jumps, splits, and dives throughout the musical, there was nothing that could have been improved upon. At one point, a legion of elderly women stormed the stage and paraded around with their walkers, and later on, Lancaster carried his own under a single spotlight through “Betrayed.” “Springtime For Hitler” was equally as lyrically, musically, and visually charming, with Kenneth Jackson “show[ing] the world the Hitler” we didn’t know through Roger’s flouncy dancing, and “Keep It Gay” was utterly fabulous!

Wholly witty, immensely entertaining, and ridiculously hilarious, The Producers is bound to go down as one of 7 Ages’s most spectacular productions yet. Much like the play within the play, ironically enough, The Producers was “shocking, outrageous, insulting…and I loved every minute of it!”

Republished from The Quill print edition, Volume 103, Issue 19, January 29, 2013.