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|December 4-10, 2008
BDT and Mel Brooks find perfection
by Gary Zeidner
As we were walking to the car after seeing The Producers at Boulder’s Dinner Theatre the other night, my buddy, Brett, asked if I ever suffered from writer’s block when I was trying to make deadline with one of my reviews. I explained to him, thankfully, that is almost never the case. If I see an exceptionally good show, it is always easy to pen a review lauding whatever aspects of the production made it a standout. If, instead, I witness a theatrical 9/11, the criticism and castigation flow just as smoothly onto my computer screen. It is only when I am witness to a truly mediocre show, a show containing no surprises good or bad, that I find it challenging to write something interesting about it.
I expect this review will be as easy to write as falling off the wagon, because BDT’s The Producers scores perfect 10s across the board. If this show were an Olympian, it would be Michael Phelps. If it were a building, it would be the Parthenon. If it were a hoagie, it would be from Lee’s Hoagie House in Philly. While BDT always puts on commendable, eminently watchable productions, The Producers ratchets up the humor and harmonies to epic levels.
We’ve all experienced those rare occasions when everything comes together flawlessly. A receiver in a football game runs the perfect hitch-and-go route on fourth and 24, and the quarterback threads a screamer through three defenders right into his hands for a touchdown. A lonely woman wearing her favorite skirt and blouse walks into an art gallery on Pearl Street for the first time in her life and winds up at dinner with the store’s owner after a lengthy conversation about an artist she only learned about on the Internet the day before. A college student wakes up still drunk from last night’s party, frantic that he’s missing his final exam, only to realize it’s Saturday, the bong on the coffee table is loaded and the beautiful young lady from the night before is not only still beautiful but is still sleeping beside him. The Producers at BDT is one of these cosmic confluences.
Mel Brooks’ movie-turned-musical is a welcome dark chocolate change of pace from the overwhelmingly vanilla nature of musical theater. There are no toe-headed moppets cutely capering, no children’s stories come to life. This is a musical about a lying, cheating man-whore Broadway producer and his neurotic, new partner running a scam to bilk little old ladies out of their cash by staging a musical tribute to Adolph Hitler (played as a flaming homosexual no less), and it couldn’t be funnier. Brooks created a seemingly ageless classic out of Nazi and entertainment-industry jokes that has won awards both as a Broadway musical and as not one but two films.
With source material like that, a theater company is well on its way, but it must add two essential elements in order to create a masterpiece: production and talent. As usual, BDT comes through in both categories. Led by producer and director Michael Duran, BDT uses every inch of its space to bring The Producers to Technicolor life. The costumes and sets are simple and utterly effective. Whether it’s opening night in front of a Broadway theater, a conga line of Village People or a chorus line of aging socialites, The Producers looks brilliant.
As for the talent, I can’t say that I’ve ever seen the BDT regulars used to better effect than in The Producers. Scott Beyette, with just a hint of Wilder creeping around the edges, convinces in the least credible role of the cowardly Leo Bloom. Zina Mercil gives us a loveably ditzy Ulla. Brian Norber brings down the house with his Roger Debris — and even more so with his Hitler. Brian Jackson’s Franz Liebkind puts Will Ferrell’s to shame. Shelly Cox-Robie, acting as the “utility player,” scores in every one of her many small roles. But it is Wayne Kennedy as Max Bialystock who deserves as many accolades as he can carry. Kennedy’s Bialystock is a comic Hamlet. Whether dropping insults under his breath or belting out lecherous intent at the top of his lungs, Kennedy hits the mark every moment of The Producers.
There is simply no better show playing in Boulder — now and through the holiday season — than The Producers.
On the Bill:
The Producers plays through March 7 at Boulder’s Dinner Theatre, 5501 Arapahoe Ave., Boulder,
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