MCMANUS THEATRE, DEC.1-11, 2010
Neurologists posit that for a reaction to a joke to take place it is essential that the right and left sides of the brain be totally engaged. Last night’s reaction to Mel Brooks’s mega-hit The Producers was a compelling case study in the cause and effect physiology of laughter.
Welcome to the wacky and some might aver the tacky world of Mel Brooks. The modus operandi of The Producers vibrates with comedic conventions throughout the show: puns, double entendres, one-liners, goofy gags, rapid repartee, satire, insult, self-parody, in short, iterations of vaudeville and burlesque, all too familiar environments to Brooks and his previous incarnations.
Brooks’s comic genius, talent, and ego in autocratic fashion are omnipresent in this musical extravaganza. 1968 saw The Producers as a relatively low budget cult classic that became in 2001 a Broadway blockbuster that garnered twelve Tony Awards with Mr. Brooks as composer, lyricist, and one half of the book’s writing team. The 2005 film with Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick left critics less enthusiastic. The popularity of the Broadway show, however, has regional theatre companies cashing in at the box office despite the politically incorrect ethos of the show.
Planning to become obscenely rich after bilking old, lubricious ladies, and making off with their capital investments, theatrical producer, Max Bialystock, and his co-conspirator, the unscrupulous and anemic accountant Leo Bloom, live the high life until their newly found yet lurid lifestyle comes crashing down around them. This unflagging partnership recasts its demimonde of Third Reich aesthetics and sexual archetypes once again, this time in Sing Sing garb. Oh yes, there is plenty of song and dance here and a happy ending too; after all, The Producers is a musical. This is unapologetic madcap entertainment to be sure, and in-your-face from beginning to end.
This Producers has plenty of pluck. Pacheco Theatre has succeeded in turning the claustrophobic confines of the McManus theatre into a convincing backdrop of The Great White Way with extravagant production numbers including a Village People conga line, a geriatric chorus routine, several tap numbers and even Bavarian “slap” - dancing.
The cast performing all of this is very strong, very talented and very eager to please. Bill Hill is Max Bialystock from top to bottom and everything in between. He has captured the essence of the character flawlessly as he struts about the stage with a genuine, skillful sense of comedic timing and delivery. Mr. Hill is comfortable and natural as he defines his role throughout the show in a style nuanced and finely distilled. His performance of the musical number Betrayed is a showstopper. There were Bravos after the song and he truly deserved them. (read more)