The North Carolina Theatre‘s vivacious home-grown version of Mel Brooks’ madcap PG-13-rated backstage musical The Producers, which will complete its two-week run this weekend at Raleigh Memorial Auditorium, is a Broadway-style musical, with Broadway-caliber production values, including spectacular sets by Robin Wagner and costumes by William Ivey Long, originally created for the 2001 Broadway debut of The Producers and later employed in national tours produced by NETworks Presentations, LLC of Columbia, MD.
Local designers and a crackerjack cast, directed and choreographed by Bill Burns, provide the rest of the razzle-dazzle. Michael McCormick is terrific as legendary producer Max Bialystock, the former King of Broadway whose name is now synonymous with a series of spectacular flops.
It seems that Max has the reverse-Midas touch, so that everything he bankrolls closes faster than a speed date. Then into his office walks mild-mannered accountant and would-be Broadway producer Leopold Bloom (played to nerdy perfection by Stacey Todd Holt). Leo concocts a can’t-miss scheme in which Messrs. Bialystock and Bloom can make more money from staging a flop, which closes before they have spent all their backers’ bucks, than from a hit, whose profits they would have to share with the backers.
They pick the worst play possible — a terrifically tasteless piece of musical kitsch entitled Springtime for Hitler: A Gay Romp with Adolf and Eva at Berchtesgaden, written by unrepentant Nazi playwright Franz Liebkind (a no-good-nik impersonated with brio by Steven Ted Beckler) — and assemble the worst imaginable creative team — headed by flamboyantly gay director Roger De Bris (Stuart Marland) and his “common-law assistant” Carmen Ghia (Christopher Sloan) — to ensure that Springtime for Hitler lays a great, big egg.
Messrs. Marland and Sloan camp it up outrageously as a pair of drama queens (pun intended), and they steal every scene in which they appear. And as is typical of a Mel Brooks musical, a lot of good, clean, dirty PG-13-rated fun is had with the buxom blond Swedish bombshell Ulla Inga Hansen Benson Yansen Tallen Hallen Svaden Swanson (Lara Seibert), a chorus-girl wannabe whom Max and Leo convince to hire her to be their unpaid “secretary-slash-receptionist.” Seibert is a delight as Ulla, and NCT’s light-footed chorus — which includes Matthew-Jason Willis and Lisa Jolley — really kicks up its heels and helps make The Producers, with its frisky musical staging by NCT guest director and choreographer Bill Burns and exuberant accompaniment by musical director Edward G. Robinson and the NCT orchestra, a real treat for mature audiences.
SECOND OPINION: Feb. 16th Durham, NC Independent Weekly review by Byron Woods (who awarded the show 4 of 5 stars): http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/nc-theatres-producers-nails-its-flop/Content?oid=2033103; Feb. 15th Raleigh, NC News & Observer review by Roy C. Dicks: http://www.newsobserver.com/2011/02/15/989695/the-producers-sizzles.html and Feb. 9th preview: http://www.newsobserver.com/2011/02/09/976400/the-producers-on-deck.html; Feb. 14th Raleigh, NC Classical Voice of North Carolina review by Alan R. Hall: http://cvnc.org/article.cfm?articleId=234; and Feb. 14th Raleigh, NC Triangle Arts & Entertainment review by Susie Potter: http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2011/02/the-producers-pleases-crowds-but-lacks-substance/. (Note: To read Triangle Arts & Entertainment’s online version of the Feb. 12th Triangle Theater Review preview by Robert W. McDowell, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2011/02/ncts-zany-broadway-style-production-of-the-mel-brooks-musical-the-producers-opens-feb-12th/.)
The North Carolina Theatre presents THE PRODUCERS at 8 p.m. Feb. 18, 2 and 8 p.m. Feb. 19, and 2 and 7 p.m. Feb. 20 in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium in the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27601.
TICKETS: $25-$75, except $15 Student Rush Tickets sold to students and educators with ID one hour before curtain.
BOX OFFICE: NCT Box Office: 919/831-6941. Ticketmaster: 800/745-3000, 919/834-4000, or http://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115203/936938.
GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): 919/831-6941, ext. 6944; firstname.lastname@example.org; or http://nctheatre.com/theatre/group_sales.html.
NCT BLOG: http://northcarolinatheatre.blogspot.com/.
NOTE: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh (http://www.artsaccessinc.org/) will audio describe the 2 p.m. Feb. 19th performance.
The Film: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Producers_(1968_film) (Wikipedia) and http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0063462/ (Internet Movie Database).
The Musical: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Producers_(musical) (Wikipedia) and http://www.ibdb.com/show.php?ID=10510 (Internet Broadway Database).
Mel Brooks: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mel_Brooks (Wikipedia), http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=7689 (Internet Broadway Database), and http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000316/ (Internet Movie Database).
Michael McCormick: http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=71495 (Internet Broadway Database).
Stacey Todd Holt: http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=70524 (Internet Broadway Database).
Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review,a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This review is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.
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To read all of Robert W. McDowell’s Triangle Theater Reviewpreviews and reviews online at Triangle Arts & Entertainment, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/robert-w-mcdowell/.