With a record-breaking 12 Tony Awards to its credit, the Mel Brooks creation, The Producers is widely considered one of the funniest musical comedies to grace the stage in the decades. Based on the 1968 film of the same name (which starred Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel), the story follows really kicks off when Leo Bloom, a mild-mannered yet oft-hysterical accountant, mentions to his client Max Bialystock, a washed-up Broadway producer, that one could possibly make more money with a Broadway flop than a hit. Together the two set out to produce the worst show ever created, a musical romp called “Springtime for Hitler”.
Mel Brooks’ The Producers Has Layers of Comedy
HE SAID: As much as this show is a long barrage of jokes, gags, gimmicks, and schticks, it’s also a crisp satire and a wonderful homage to the musical theatre. You probably could watch this show every night and still not capture every comic beat and every nod throughout the script. Mel Brooks opens his show with a not-so-subtle nod to Fiddler on the Roof and the references to some musical greats only begin there, making its way to Ethel Merman and even Busby Berkeley. This show is built with it all – a perfect balance between cheap, quick jokes and masterful set ups that show its true genius.
SHE SAID: This show is definitely a well-crafted, all-inclusive piece of musical theatre. For a modern musical, it actually runs a bit longer than average, but for me it’s so entertaining that it never seems to drag. The scenes are either short, leading into a brilliant musical number, or long enough to set up and pay off several jokes very well. This production at Town Hall hits a lot of the comedy right on! The show is written to be a real audience-pleaser, and the entire audience had a great time the evening we were there.
Cardell, Howard Lead Stand Out Comic Roles
HE SAID: What Mel Brooks did with this show was create the need for a top notch comedy duo and Town Hall has a lovely partnership with Bernie Cardell as Max and Tim Howard as Leo. While the two are good on their own, I felt they were best together as they kept each other in the pocket. The engaged each other and brought the most out of simple moments – like in one of my favorite moments when Leo asks Max about how much of their own money they should be into the show. Cardell’s reaction was incredible and garnered one of the biggest laughs of the night. These two play the big gags and quick one liners like champs.
SHE SAID: I completely agree! Howard as Leo is the shining gem of the show for me. I enjoyed him throughout, whether he was singing, dreaming, dancing, or just reacting to the others on the stage. Cardell as Max is consistently funny, especially with a variety of non-verbal reactions that were always laugh-inducing. The two together are special to watch, they embody comic antithesis that pays off over and over again. There were too many other stand-out performances to name them all, but I know we both really enjoyed Liam Speros as Carmen Ghia — his physicality alone is worth the price of admission.
The Producers is Larger Than Life
HE SAID: If you want to talk about gems, the ensemble is the diamond in the rough in this production. They could use some polishing in some of the dance numbers, but they are everywhere and overall they add so much hilarity to the proceedings. Perhaps equally tasked in this show were the designers – big sets, a ton of costumes, lots of cues for both lights and sound – and with these challenges came some rough spots. Some of the sets seemed a bit large for the space (including a staircase that forced dancers to duck under the proscenium arch), and while the office set was wonderful, it did make scene changes seem a bit longer stalling the pace of the show. Some of the light up signs used didn’t work all the time. But despite the issues, the design achieved its goal in creating a great world for this production.
SHE SAID: This is definitely a BIG show to fit in Town Hall’s smallish space. I’ve always been impressed with their ability to pack in a lot of show into a little surface area, but this one was one of the biggest stretches I’ve ever seen. To set designer Tina Anderson’s credit, the stage rarely seemed overcrowded during the scenes to me. However, it was clear during the scene changes that the moving pieces needed to be expertly choreographed (which they were). The costumes for the show are also super demanding, and I was generally very impressed, especially with all of the costumes for the flashier numbers, including “I Wanna Be a Producer” and all of the show-within-a-show numbers.
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Town Hall’s The Producers Deserves a Marquee
THEY SAID: Mel Brooks’ The Producers is a well-crafted piece of comedy, and the cast works together quite well to find the funny. The charming music and outrageous plot are in good hands with this cast and crew, under the direction of Bob Wells, which makes for dependable comedy all evening. The Producers was written to be larger than life, and so there are some points of tension as it’s scaled down to fit in Town Hall’s space. Despite these challenges, we think you’ll enjoy yourself throughout the evening.
DISCLOSURE: SHE has performed in a show directed by Robert Wells, who directed this production.
For more information on The Producers, see the wikipedia page. The Producers plays through June 17th at Town Hall Arts Center. Click the banner for tickets and more information.