The young and the squeamish may want to think twice before going to see The Producers, Broadway's Tony Award-winning musical opening its first Florida-produced version at the Show Palace Dinner Theatre on Saturday.
It's irreverent, bawdy, politically incorrect — and almost too funny to bear.
"We asked for production rights to the show right after we saw it" in Tampa in 2004, said Nick Sessa, co-owner of the Hudson theater. Sessa and co-owner Sal Sessa said they knew that the show would be a hit with their clientele. The moment those rights came through, the Show Palace put Mel Brooks' megahit in their popular first-show-of-the-year spot.
Sure enough, it has already sold more tickets than all but two shows from the past year.
The original Broadway production won 12 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and has been produced in scores of countries and toured most of the rest.
The Show Palace production — the first Florida-produced version — brings back Michael L. Walters (Albin/Zaza in La Cage aux Folles) to play washed-up Broadway producer Max Bialystock and resident musical director Michael Ursua (Priest in Man of La Mancha) to play Leo Bloom, the mousy but ambitious accountant who schemes with Bialystock to get rich quick by producing a Broadway flop.
While Bloom juggles the books, Bialystock seduces little old ladies to invest millions of dollars in his upcoming show. Then the pair look for the most terrible show possible, feeling sure it will close on opening night and put the investors' leftover money in the producers' pockets.
They finally find a doozy, Springtime for Hitler, written by a loony, bird-loving Nazi, Franz Liebkind (Candler Budd, Greater Tuna), who still adores der fuhrer. They then recruit New York's most inept director, the flamboyantly gay Roger DeBris (Matthew McGee, Greater Tuna) and his "assistant," Carmen Ghia (Todd Mummert, Frosty Follies).
Meanwhile, the fellows hire a voluptuous, air-headed Swedish receptionist, Ulla (Erin Romero, Lina in Singin' in the Rain), and Bloom immediately falls in love with her.
Springtime for Hitler opens and is a success for a unexpected reasons, and the producers' world crashes around their ears. One takes off for Rio, and the other goes to prison, but it all turns out well in the end.
The show is packed with the zany, over-the-top humor of Mel Brooks (Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles, High Anxiety), who wrote the original 1968 movie and co-wrote the music and book for the stage musical.
(Note: It's recommended for patrons 16 and older.)