THE PRODUCERS Produce Laughs, Lots of Fun

by Walter Bender

The Dramateurs at the Barn Playhouse opened their latest offering, THE PRODUCERS by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan on June 11. THE PRODUCERS is the story of a has-been Broadway producer, Max Bialystock, his partner Leo Bloom, and their attempts to intentionally mount a Broadway flop. As Leo (an accountant with a hidden desire to be a producer) tells Bialystock, you can actually make more money with a flop than a hit.

THE PRODUCERS was first created as a movie starring Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder, and later recreated for the Broadway stage, initially starring Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick. The Broadway musical led to a new movie, also starring Mr. Lane and Mr. Broderick. As such, it’s a very familiar story, and a show that many people are familiar with. Director Robert Marsch brings to the Barn stage a familiar show. The set, very cleverly designed by Christopher Haig, accented the different settings very well. The orchestra was hidden off-stage, yet the mix between actors and orchestra was very good.

Steve Arcidiacono is the main protagonist, Max Bialystock. His Bialy is all energy and bravado. Bob Finkenhauer as Leo Bloom provides the nervous foil to Bialy’s bluster. These two work very well together, playing off each others’ character traits to advantage. Other performances of note were Jim Goniea (Roger Debris), Tim Johnson (Carmen Ghia), and Mickey Maley (Franz.) One actress who put her own spin on the character was Sandy Yozviak as Ulla, the Swedish receptionist/actress/love interest. She showed the lusty innocence of Ulla, and her performance was a lot of fun.

There is a large supporting cast who play multiple roles, and they all did very fun work. They all looked like they were having a great time as they moved from scene to scene, and their joy and energy were infectious.

The show moved along very briskly. In some cases, however, it was too brisk, not allowing the audience to fully enjoy the humor of the lines and situations. Some of the comic bits were lost either in the frenetic pace, not waiting for the audience’s laughter to subside, or director or actor decisions to move along and not relish the moment. I’d like to see a bit less of a breakneck pace in some of the scenes between the two leads. Conversely the scene changes at times were overlong, and the audience was left waiting for the next scene. It appeared as if there just weren’t enough hands committed to the scene changes. The thing I missed most, however, was the “Jewish-ness” of the subtext. Even though Bialystock says at one point that he isn’t Jewish, he obviously IS Jewish, and the concept of two Jewish men mounting a production called “Springtime for Hitler” is hilarious. This is Mel Brooks’ writing at its finest, and we needed to see more of that.

Even with these shortcomings, I did enjoy the production. The cast had a lot of fun, and their fun carried to the audience. In fact, the opening night audience gave the production a standing ovation. Mel Brooks is a master story teller, and THE PRODUCERS is arguably one of his finer works. It’s well worth the trip to Jeffersonville to see this fun production.

by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan
Directed by Robert Marsch
June 11 – 26, 2010
The Dramateurs, Inc.
at the Barn Playhouse
Christopher Ln & Rittenhouse Blvd
Jeffersonville, PA

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