With The Producers at Village Theatre, It’s Springtime for Hitler in Issaquah & Everett
Let’s get to the point: I loved this show-–so much that I forgot to review it. The Producers (now through July 1 at the Gaudette Theatre in Issaquah and July 6-29 at the Everett Performing Arts Center) is well-cast with terrific performances, and may very well be the best show I’ve seen at The Village.
Normally when I review a show for The SunBreak, I’m going for you, the people, to let you know if I think you’d like it. Sweeping generalization here, but you’re a literate lot, much more likely to know what this is than this…or hopefully this. But I have to confess I was just enjoying this production too much to take notes. Sorry about that. I totally owe you one.
We all know The Producers as a 1968 film with Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel playing Leo and Max, Broadway producers who plan to get rich by bilking little old lady investors and producing a show so bad it closes after one performance, just to get the insurance money. That movie launched Mel Brooks’ career and brought us Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, and Spaceballs. In 2001, Brooks took it back to Broadway (with Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane as Leo and Max) and it sold a bazillion tickets and earned 12 Tony Awards. Second movie ensued.
Casting-wise, director Steve Tomkins got it right. Richard Gray plays Max Bialystock, the producer of such hits as Funny Boy: A New Musical Version of Hamlet. Gray’s excellent comedic timing, physical comedy skills and patter song-rapping (“The King of Broadway”) help make him a Broadway-calibre Max–just as good as any Bialystock I’ve ever seen. Nebbishy accountant Leo is played by Brian Earp with the right amount of earnestness. Like Gray, he plays the part big–in a show like this, you go big or go home–without making it too big. Watching him melt down when Max takes a little blue comfort blanket as his perpetual companion, you see just how good he is.
In a show full of scene-stealers, there were two additional standouts for me. Nick DeSantis was amazing as Roger Debris, supposedly one of the worst directors on Broadway and the man chosen by Max and Leo to direct Springtime for Hitler: A Gay Romp with Adolf and Eva at Berchtesgaden. (Wait, did someone mention GAY?) His Roger was just so perfectly played; it was stereotypically over-the-top flamboyant, rouge and all, and yet somehow wasn’t demeaning or mocking. Everything he did was dead-on funny–again, like Gray, his was a Broadway-level performance, and I would love to see his Frank-N-Furter some day. (You know what I mean.) And finally, Jessica Skerritt plays Swedish actress/secretary/receptionist Ulla. She’s a triple-threat (quad-, if you count great comedienne) who played the role with more depth than you’d expect from the character. She had a voice to belt it out, but it turned to honey in her duet with Leo (“That Face”).
While the physical production isn’t overly lavish, it still looks good, and the performances, direction, and dancing are as good as any Broadway series tour you’d see anyway. The excellent tap-dancing. The big production number with the army of old ladies and their walkers. The Nazi pigeons. The Broadway and Jewish in-jokes. I could go on.