Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Stage

'The Producers' brings Broadway high jinks to Stage West

A record-breaking 12 Tony Awards, a Grammy Award for its album, two movie versions, productions all over the world — Mel Brooks' irreverent, zany musical farce The Producers broke the mold on Broadway and continues to grab audiences wherever it goes.

The first community theater version of the show in this area opens Thursday and continues weekends through May 19 at Stage West Community Playhouse in Spring Hill.

"It's a big show, lots of people," said Paulette Hess, production coordinator.

Leading director Lynda Dilts-Benson's cast are Jamie Smeriglio (Toby in Sweeney Todd) as the docile Leo Bloom, a shy accountant who stumbles across the opportunity of a lifetime, thanks to the wily Broadway producer Max Bialystock (Dalton Benson, Saunders in Lend Me a Tenor).

As Bloom goes over the books of Bialystock's most recent flop, he jokingly says that a producer could actually make more money putting on flops than doing mildly successful shows. The key is to get a lot of backers to put up a lot of money, do the worst show imaginable as cheaply as possible, close after the first night, then keep the rest of the investors' money.

The light goes on in Bialystock's head: That's exactly what he'll do. With Bloom's help. But the principled Bloom won't go along — until he goes back to his office cubicle, is berated by a cruel boss and realizes that his lifetime dream has been to be a Broadway producer. He quits his job, runs back to Bialystock and the scheme is on.

After a long search, they find a play by the unreconstructed Nazi Franz Liebkind (Ryan Rogers, Brad in Rocky Horror Show), who has written a sentimental paean to Adolf Hitler, Springtime for Hitler: A Gay Romp with Adolf and Eva at Berchtesgaden. The producers realize it's the most offensive show they've ever seen and will surely be a flop.

They enlist the help of the flamboyant homosexual Roger De Bris (Mitch Gonzalez, title role in Li'l Abner), who agrees to helm the show, but only if he's allowed to change the show so that the Germans win World War II. The fellows rush back to the office to interview Swedish bombshell Ulla Inga Hansen Benson Yansen Tallen Hallen Svaden Swanson (Miranda Griffin, Petra in A Little Night Music) to be their secretary. Then Max gets busy raising $2 million by providing certain "services" on his office sofa to rich little old ladies on aluminum walkers.

Eventually, Bialystock's scheme works out, but not in the way he imagined and only after some outrageous surprises — and that's the fun of the show.

Every scene and line is carefully calculated to offend somebody, and that's exactly what Brooks wanted. His theory is that the best revenge is ridicule, and he ridicules Hitler where it hurts the most, making him look completely foolish.

And only Brooks could get away with also lampooning gays, women and minorities and making them laugh right along.

The Producers, like several other recent Stage West productions (Love, Sex and the I.R.S., The Miracle Worker, Chicago), is expected to sell out quickly, so patrons are being encouraged to buy tickets early.

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