Super Summer Theatre’s season finale is an odyssey of musical theater told through the story of would-be failed producers Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom in the 2001 Broadway hit “The Producers.” The laughter never stops in this top-notch production directed by Joe Hynes for Baked Stage Entertainment.
Written by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan with music and lyrics by Brooks (who knew?), the musical won a record 12 Tonys and is based on Brooks’ film comedy classic.
The opening setting is a Sardi’s caricature vision of Broadway. An audience exiting a theater ridicules the latest flop by producer Bialystock (“It’s Opening Night”). His accountant, Leo Bloom, facetiously suggests that Bialystock could make more money if his plays were intentional flops because then he could keep all his investors’ money. (The investors are over-sexed little old widows who Bialystock seduces for their money — wait until you see their tap number with their walkers).
Lightning strikes and Bialystock convinces Bloom to help him find the worst play ever written (the inspirational spoof “We Can Do It”). They hire the curvaceous but ESL-challenged Ulla to look pretty in the office (the play’s choreographer, Kady Kay, is charming in the role). Soon they are producing “Springtime for Hitler,” “a gay musical romp” written by Franz Liebkind, a Nazi pigeon fancier (a subtle dig at the “only following orders” German mindset) who is also cast as Hitler (Erik Ball as Liebkind is a brilliant buffoon and surprises with his strong baritone).
What could go wrong?
Brooks packs the script with literary and musical theater puns. The sing-along tunes, well performed under the musical direction of Toby McEvoy, camouflage the play’s razor-wire satire on Broadway musicals. For example, “Der Guten Tag Hop-Clop” mimics “The Lonely Goatherd” from “The Sound of Music” and pokes fun at that musical’s whitewashing of popular Austrian support for the Nazi Anschluss. Choreographer Kay’s spoof of such Broadway legends as Jerome Robbins’ “Fiddler on the Roof” and Michael Bennett’s “A Chorus Line” is so laugh-out-loud funny you might overlook how good the dancers are.
Troy Tinker is a comic and vocal powerhouse as Bialystock. His virtuoso solo in “Betrayed” is stunning. Cory Benway is adorably neurotic as Bialystock’s sidekick Bloom. Benway’s double takes are worth the price of admission and he’s a talented dancer and singer. Bloom sings his syrupy love ballad “Til Him” to Bialystock, not Ulla, and one might read a homosexual subtext into their relationship.
Except in this show all subtexts are highlighted in neon. To ensure “Springtime for Hitler” is a flop, Bialystock and Bloom hire Roger De Bris to direct the show. Glen Heath as De Bris makes his entrance dressed in drag in a costume resembling the Chrysler Building. (Kudos to designer Kehler Relick’s hilariously tasteless costumes). That’s one of the subtler moments in Heath’s way over-the-top performance. When Liebkind literally “breaks a leg,” the show must go on, so director De Bris assumes the role of Hitler and steals the show within the show as well as the show (“Heil To You”).
It takes a Village People to put on a Broadway musical and De Bris’ is backed up by a gang of very politically incorrect show people kept in line by his strict but flamboyant assistant and lover, Carmen Ghia, a scene-chewing part perfectly played by Drew Yonemori. Yonemori holds a lisp for so long they must have to keep emergency oxygen backstage for him.
Mickey Roark was surprising in a dual role as Bloom’s cigar chomping boss and as the funny audition contestant, Donald Dinsmore. Aaron Barry is funny as Jack Lepidus. John Hughes takes a star-turn in his brief solo in “I Wanna Be A Producer” and as the “Black Irishman” O’Houlihan.
“The Producers” ends on a high note, a delightful summer of musicals at Super Summer Theatre at Spring Mountain Ranch State Park.