Mel Brooks’ classic musical, “The Producers,” opened at the Community Theatre of Greensboro (CTG) to a full-house of nearly constant laughter on April 20.
The quick-witted, sexually-charged production pushed every boundary with its raunchy hilarity, which is evident from a few of the show’s most standout numbers – “Keep it Gay” and “Springtime for Hitler.”
“The Producers” is about Max Bialystock, the once revered Broadway producer who is down-and-out. He schemes with his new accountant, Leo Bloom. Together, they try to produce the worst musical on Broadway, using funds donated by old ladies that shack up with Max. Their white-collar crime is supposed to make them millions, but the show becomes a huge hit, resulting in the unexpected.
The CTG production is directed by Bobby Bodford and the musical director Andy Mock, with choreography by Alison Presley. “The Producers” is the last mainstage production on the CTG stage for the 68th season, with Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” ending the season at Carolina Theatre.
“We chose [‘The Producers’] because we wanted something to put a little humor into the environment,” said Rozalynn Fulton, CTG’s artistic and education director. “It’s just a fun show; it’s very well-known, so we thought this would be a good way to say goodbye 68, hello 69.”
The large production did just that, with its cast of 23 people. Every actor was rightly-assigned to each distinctive character.
Dave Wils, who played the sex-mongering Max Bialystock, took control of the stage, by finding every punch line with his crude jokes, loud outbursts and uncontrollable laughter. He would make explicit comments such as “that’s right baby when you’ve got it – flaunt it, flaunt it!” and referring to his female donors by sexual acts like “yank me, spank me.”
Without a mic, Wils was completely audible, though sometimes his outbursts were a little loud.
Wils’ partner in literal crime, Leo Bloom, played by Trey Cameron, made for an intriguing and complementary dynamic. Cameron’s character is a boring accountant, who always dreamed of being a Broadway producer. The original blue blankie-loving, anxiety-stricken man makes a 180-degree turn by the end of the show, which adds to the musical’s great writing and fun character development.
Cameron’s cries of panic and over-exaggerated faces enhanced his character’s personality.
Though the leads played the same characters, the ensemble played two or three characters, rotating in and out of costumes. All the characters, except for one, were adults.
Most of the musical’s numbers had classic Broadway melodies, which were well-performed by the cast. Most of the songs were sung in English, but a few were sung in German. Audience members enjoyed the singing, saying it was “incredible” and “their voices were amazing.”
Yet, other parts of the show were unexpected for a few of the audience members.
“It was funny. It was a lot funnier than I thought it would be,” Megan Lohuis said.
Lohuis’ friend agreed. “I laughed my a— off, which I didn’t expect to do either,” Ericca Smith said.
Though a scene did not go by without a roar of laughter, the content of the musical might be too harsh for some audience members, especially when Hitler and the patriarchy are highlighted with dark humor. However, the late ‘60s musical does not single anyone out; it is a show that pokes fun at everyone, making it an enjoyable, light-hearted musical featuring taboo subjects.
The CTG’s production utilized lights and sounds to their advantage. Pops of reds and blues were used to accentuate moments in the show, such as the scene when Max is mock-praying and when Ulla, the love interest’s butt is spotlighted during “That Face.” Whenever someone would fall off-stage, a crashing and clinking noise sputtered out of the speakers.
With such a large cast, the directors were clever to use the aisles and front seats to fix any logistical issues.
For an opening night performance, there were barely any issues. The only scene with an obvious bout of improvisation was when Max was sitting on a prison cot and it broke. Yet, Wils masterfully played off the minute mishap by saying something analogous to “stupid prison cots,” which made the audience giggle.
For a community theatre, the production looked and sounded expensive. This was evident in the number of costume changes, the ornately painted sets and the time spent on perfecting some of the most laughable moments in the show.
“It’s a terrific production, by a true genius – Mel Brooks. It’s timeless and funny and very well done,” said Al Calarco, an audience member. “Come to see it if for no other reason than the dancing [old ladies and their] walkers.”
With an entire number featuring old women dancing with walkers and one woman who likes to play “dirty games” with Max and genuinely refers to the term “quickie,” it is obvious this show candidly expresses sexuality.
CTG’s performance of “The Producers” did not feel like a community theatre production, but a flagrant masterpiece with sheer professionalism.
“The Producers” will continue to run at CTG until May 6, with night performances on April 26, 27, 28 and May 3, 4, 5 starting at 7:30 p.m. and matinee performances on April 29 and May 6 at 2 p.m.