The Producers Review – Mel Brooks’ Comic Masterpiece Revisited

Christopher Jewell Valentin and Richardson Jones in THE PRODUCERS - Photo by Matthew Brian Denman

Based on Mel Brooks’ 1967 film, THE PRODUCERS received new life when adapted for the stage by Brooks (music and lyrics) from the book by Brooks and Thomas Meehan. The musical opened on Broadway in 2001, playing until 2007 for a whopping 2,502 performances. THE PRODUCERS received an unprecedented 12 Tony Awards for best musical, best original score, best actor, best featured actor, best featured actress, best director and choreographer, best orchestration, best scenic design, best costume design, and best lighting design. Since then, there have been multiple national and international productions, along with a 2005 motion picture. Clearly, THE PRODUCERS was a film just waiting to be adapted for the stage.

Christoher Jewell Valentin and Richardson Jones – Photo by Matthew Brian Denman

Formerly a Broadway great, producer Max Bialystock (Richardson Jones) has just suffered his worst flop. “Funny Boy,” a musical based on “Hamlet,” bombed, lasting for only one performance. With his career in shambles, Max encounters accountant Leo Bloom (Christopher Jewell Valentin), whose throwaway idea that a theater disaster could turn into a pot of gold catches Max right between the greedy eyes. A resounding flop just might fill his empty coffers. So Max begins his search for the worst script, the worst director, and the worst actors that he can find. Although at first a bit reluctant, Bloom is soon enchanted by the plan; and so the two work at presenting the worst production ever to hit Broadway.

Richardson Jones and cast members – Photo by Matthew Brian Denman

Within days, “Springtime for Hitler” is born. Penned by Franz Liebkind (John Colella), a Nazi-in-hiding with a life-long love affair with Hitler, and directed by Roger De Bris (Michael A. Shepperd), a gay flop-master extraordinaire, the play is off to an exciting start – aided in no small measure by De Bris’ “common-law” assistant Carmen Ghia (Andrew Diego) lending a flighty helping hand. Last but not least, enter Swedish bombshell Ulla (Mary Ann Welshans), who becomes the pair’s secretary/receptionist/actress – while also catching Bloom’s adoring eye and other parts of roving Max’s anatomy. Finally, the opening night. Will the show become the worst in Broadway history? You’ll have to join in the side-splitting fun to find out.

Christopher Jewell Valentin and Richardson Jones – Photo by Matthew Brian Denman

THE PRODUCERS is an uproarious, utterly ridiculous look at the inner workings of Broadway. The play pokes fun at everything and anything with nonsensical accents, caricatures of homosexuals and Nazis, physical humor coupled with clever lines. In a word, nothing is sacred in Brooks’ hilarious comedy. Kudos to everyone involved in the production, including director Michael Matthews, music director Anthony Zediker, live band members (Leigh Anne Gillespie, Chris Payne, and Phil Moore), choreographer Janet Roston, costume designer E. B. Brooks, the entire production team, and – last but not least – a terrific ensemble cast with the energy, joie de vivre, and enthusiasm to keep up the rollicking pace to the last note. Special congratulations to Richardson Jones and Christopher Jewell Valentin, who are onstage almost throughout. The Celebration Theatre’s latest production, THE PRODUCERS, is one of their best.

SPLASH SELECTION

THE PRODUCERS runs through August 12, 2019, with performances at 8 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays, and Mondays and at 2 p.m. on Sundays (no performance on July 1). The Celebration Theatre is located at 6760 Lexington Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90038. Tickets range from $30 to $50. For information and reservations, call 323-956-1884 or go online.

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