By Bernardo SchrimerMegaphone Lead Photographer
Let me just start by saying you should have seen the 1968 movie. It’s good and it’s Mel Brooks. With that in mind, this is a more than good enough as an adaptation of the Oscar-winning musical.
The Palace Theater has graced conservative Georgetown with a production of Mel Brooks’ award winning musical The Producers that can barely contain itself in its own stage. As director Mary Allen Butler explained when she introduced the show, this production is the first to use every resource available on the stage, every backdrop and every square inch available on the stage. Having only seen the movies (original and musical adaptation), I was first surprised at the variety and number of songs and reprises in the stage production, many of which were apparently absent from the latest film.
To me, one thing would either make or break this production was “Springtime for Hitler”. To my delight, their take on the epic number showcasing all that should have gone wrong but ultimately went right in Bialystock and Bloom’s scheme was far more reminiscent of the number in the original 1968 film rather than the 2006 extravaganza. With that in mind, I consider show a complete success.
I don’t expect everyone to know about this story. According to the director, this show is not as well known as some of their other fare. I thought, “Really? Because it’s the only one I’ve ever heard of.” To summarize the plot for those who are unfamiliar with the show, Max Bialystock (Matt Gauck), a desperate Broadway producer whose only means of financing his ever more epic flops consists of providing even more desperate little old ladies with one last thrill before the grave, meets the timid and repressed accountant Leo Bloom (Larry Frier) whose musings provide the impetus for a surefire scam: put on one of Max’s famous flops while selling more than 1000 percent in investments. Once the show fails, they can disappear with the backer’s money.
Of course, if the plan had worked, we wouldn’t have a show. So after deciding on the almost supernaturally offensive play “Springtime for Hitler” by the Nazi bird-man Franz Liebkind (Bill Lindstrom), hiring Roger DeBris (Matt Connely) a director “so gay he almost flew away” and generally covering all their bases to ensure a shining, glorious flop they end up with a hot, steaming pile of disastrous success. Hilarity ensues. To fill out our corps of players, we have Carmen Ghia (Matthew Burnett), Mr. DeBris’ buoyant and territorial common-law assistant and the lovely Ulla Inga Hansen Benson Yonsen Tallen-Hallen Svaden-Svanson (Nicole Pritchard/ Sara Burke), Ulla for mercifully short, the “innocent” Swedish secretary. That ludicrous name reflects the expansion the role receives in the musical as opposed to the original film as she goes from sexy prop to full-fledged accomplice.
Each number works to top the previous as it leads to the previously mentioned springtime climax. The choreography delightfully fits the Palace stage from the walker tap dance to the spinning swastika. All keep the trademarks of each number without ripping off previously seen choreography. The sets worked best at their simplest; the white office remains my favorite bit of design both here and in the 2006 film. Each actor works their scenes like they were getting paid and each lead plays well off each other.
On more technical terms, there were times when I felt the sound died a bit, like volume was not reached to full-belting status, and perhaps Roger’s costume could look more like its gag, but that would be unfair nitpicking. Ultimately, I enjoyed this show, which was a wonderful distraction from the studying I should have been doing that day.