If you’ve seen one Mel Brook’s movie you’ve seen them all. Brook’s signature brand of screwball humor and impromptu song and dance is evident in nearly all his comedy classics like “Spaceballs” to “Blazing Saddles” and everything else in between. So it should come as no surprise that when Brook’s decided to bring “The Producers” to the Broadway stage it came across more like one of his films than an actual musical. Which, perhaps, is why this latest iteration of “The Producers” played to a packed house at Capitol Theatre this past Tuesday night with Brook’s comical genius on full display to the delight of the audience.
“The Producers” is one of those rare Broadway productions that aren’t carried by the music but by the absolute absurdity of the story and its even zanier characters. While Brook’s may not be a musical genius on the level of Andrew Lloyd Webber he has a knack for developing over the top memorable characters that thoroughly entertain which makes “The Producers” arguably his comedic masterpiece.
Where the song and dance numbers often fall short the incredibly humorous narrative of an ethically challenged producer Max Bialystock (played by David Johnson) and his easily corruptible accountant Leo Bloom (played by Richard Lafleur) more than pick up the slack. The interplay between this dynamic duo brings to mind the oddball antics of Abbot and Costello as they put their devious plan in to place to purposely produce a Broadway flop while keeping the profits for themselves.
While it can’t be easy to follow in the footsteps of the original Bialystock and Bloom, played by Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, there is a genuine chemistry between Johnson and Lafleur that keeps you rooting for them both despite their less then ethical intentions. Johnson in particular is an absolute charmer with a voice that sounds like Brook’s himself and a lovable personality that shines through even while he is seducing blue haired old ladies into financing a play about Hitler.
However it’s the supporting cast that ultimately steals the show with a series of farcical and at times ludicrous characters that will tingle every funny bone in your body. From the German playwright Franz Liebkind (played by Thomas Slater) who adores two things in life, his pet pigeons and Hitler, to the towering sultry Swedish blond bombshell Ulla (played by Jessica Ernest)whose accent is as prominent as her height there isn’t a character in the show that isn’t completely engaging and quite possibly insane.
There may not be a funnier scene in the history of Broadway then a visit to the spacious purple silk adorned penthouse of director Roger De Bris (played by John B. Boss) who unabashedly strolls around in a wig and a billowing sequined dress accompanied by his delightfully dramatic assistant Carmen Ghia (played by J. Ryan Carroll). Perhaps the only thing funnier than those two is the appearance of their production team from nearly every corner of the apartment representing just about every type of theatrical stereotype known to man.
The best part of the production is that the cast is clearly having a blast portraying these crazy characters and it shows in their performance in the way they not only adhere to Brook’s vision but enhance it as well. It’s the perfect proliferation of all these silly and preposterous characters along with a fast paced storyline that fuels this maniacal musical and takes the audience for one heck of an entertaining ride that will leave you wanting go again and again.