There’s a reason Mel Brooks gets away with even the most crass, offensive-in-any-other-context material in his work: he has mastered the art of satire. In THE PRODUCERS, the first show of the 2013 season for New Candlelight Theater in Arden, Delaware, he’s created a satire about satire that’s created completely by accident.
Sleazy Broadway producer Max Bialystock (David Willis), hasn’t had a hit in years. His new accountant, Leo Blume (Anthony Connell) muses, as he tries to cook the books to cover for a financial discrepancy, that a Broadway producer could theoretically make a bigger profit on a flop (and creative bookkeeping) than a with a hit. Max and Leo soon become partners in a scheme to produce the worst, most offensive musical ever to hit the stage and run off to Rio with the profits. The show they choose, a neo-Nazi musical called “Springtime for Hitler” seems guaranteed to fail, but, of course, things don’t quite go as planned.
As Max and Leo, Willis and Connell make a great team. THE PRODUCERS is basically a 1960s bromance between a jaded old shyster and a wide-eyed young man who dreams of getting out of his tedious 9-to-5 job, and they really do connect on stage. Connell, who I saw last in NCT’s PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE, really gets to let his comic talents shine here — he’s an amazing physical comic, and his expressions are spot-on hilarious.
In addition to Max and Leo, there is Franz (Leffrey Lanigan), the Nazi playwright who penned “Springtime for Hitler” as a sincere tribute to Hitler; Roger (Dewey J. Oriente), the flamboyant and seemingly incompetent director; Carmen Ghia (Timothy Lamont Cannon, who also designed the fabulous costumes), Roger’s even more flamboyant assistant and partner; and Ulla (Lindsay Mauk), the sexy Swedish starlet who become’s Max and Leo’s receptionist and the star of “Springtime.” Everyone has their moment. Lanigan’s “Have You Ever Heard a German Band” showcases his comic timing and allow his vocals, which are usually purely comic, to open up. Oriente and Cannon dominate attention when they’re on stage, as they should, and Mauk doesn’t miss a beat as the surprisingly sharp sex kitten.
The ensemble backs up the main cast very well, with almost no moments of off timing (this is Brooks — timing is everything). The dance routines, choreographed by Peter John Rios, are a blast, and Jeff Reim’s scenic design is clean and simple, yet not too minimalistic. The show used some unusual techniques as well, such as utilizing video screens to show the actors in short pre-filmed scenes during a couple of set changes.
THE PRODUCERS is classic comedy that still has an edge more than 40 years after the original film introduced the songs. While the show is not for kids or the extremely sensitive, it’s highly recommended for everyone else. Ticket price includes a buffet meal served an hour before the show; cash bar is available.
by Mel Brooks
Directed by Robert M. Kelly
Choreography by Peter Rios
January 25 – March 17, 2013
New Candlelight Theatre
2208b Millers Rd
Ardentown, DE 19810