THE PRODUCERS at HP&P: Brilliantly Directed Crowd Pleaser!

by Jessica Martin

As you probably know, Mel Brooks’ madcap musical farce, THE PRODUCERS, is about two guys who attempt to make a fortune by producing a flop show. Haddonfield Plays and Players, however, is taking the more traditional approach of producing a sure-fire hit. With its zany plot and far-out characters, it’s one of the funniest shows ever created. And a musical, too. It was adapted in 2001 from the classic 1980 film of the same name by Mel Brooks himself, and after some persuasion, he also wrote the music and lyrics. The show won an unprecedented 12 Tony Awards.

In this production, the super-talented Pat DeFusco plays Max Bialystock, the former “King of Broadway” who has been producing one flop after another but vows to return to his former glory. Max is unscrupulous, dishonest, and cowardly—and the audience loves him. When a timid but clever accountant, Leopold Bloom (delightfully played by Ian Parker) comes to audit the books, he discovers that a producer could make more money from a flop than a   hit if he had enough investors. Max jumps at the idea. His investors are mostly wealthy elderly ladies looking for a last sexual fling, which he provides. Then all he has to do is find the worst play, worst director and worst actors possible. Leo, reluctant at first to join him, decides after a return to his miserable job to become what he always wanted to be—a producer.

They find the worst play and its author, ex-Nazi Franz Liebekind ((David Nikolas), who lives on a Greenwich Village rooftop with his pet pigeons.  He has written Springtime for Hitler, described as a love letter to Der Fuehrer. Then they meet the worst director, the flamboyantly gay Roger DeBrie (Michael Hicks), who greets them in a stunning evening gown with his bizarre entourage. Returning to their office, Max and Leo find a gorgeous Swedish bombshell, Ulla (Megan Deeley), who has come to audition for them. She becomes their “secretary slash receptionist” until the show opens. On opening night, the author, who is playing Hitler, finds the theatrical saying “Break a leg” too literal and actually breaks one. The only person who can replace him is Roger, the director. His performance is so outrageous that it is taken for clever satire, and the show is a hit!

Of course there is much more to come, but you have to see it for yourself. The actors, particularly DeFusco, Parker, Nikolas, Hicks, and Deeley, are all perfect in their roles, but we must not forget the ensemble, whose members play many roles in addition to the song-and-dance numbers. At times you may think that the show is insulting to older women and gay men, but it’s all in fun and not to be taken seriously.

Ed Doyle not only directed brilliantly but designed the set and lighting. The set changes are handled smoothly and efficiently. The choreography by Erica Paolucci and costumes by Susan DeMinico add to the overall excellence of the production. This show is likely to be a sellout, so order your tickets soon.

Music and Lyrics by Mel Brooks
Directed by Ed Doyle
July 18-August 10, 2013
Haddonfield Plays and Players
Haddonfield, NJ 08033
(856) 429-8139

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