Where: The Oncenter Crouse Hinds Theater
When: Oct. 27-29
Tickets: No longer on sale.
“It was shocking, outrageous, insulting and I loved every minute of it.” The words to use to describe “Springtime for Hitler,” the fictional production that is the subject of “The Producers,” could be used to describe “The Producers” itself.
The popular Mel Brooks comedy goose-stepped into the Oncenter from Oct. 27-29, as the latest installment of the Famous Artists Broadway Theater Series. While the scaled back production was a bit too small for the cavernous Crouse Hinds Theatre, it had the audience laughing at all the right moments.
“The Producers,” tells the story of two Broadway producers, Max Bialystock (David Johnson) and Leo Bloom (Richard Lafleur), who discover that more money can be made with a theatrical flop than a hit. In order to do this they enlist the most terrible directors, actors and play they can find — with a plot that is described as “a gay romp with Ava and Adolf in Berchtesgaden” — to craft the worst show on Broadway.
Produced by Big League Productions, Nigel West re-created Susan Stroman’s Tony Award winning Broadway direction for this tour. It lacked three musical numbers from the 2001 Broadway production: “You Never Say ‘Good Luck’ on Opening Night,” “Where Did We Go Right” and “Betrayed.” But, these songs are not integral in furthering the plot and were the right choices to make in terms of cutting content.
Luckily, the stronger showstoppers including “I Want to Be a Producer,” “Keep it Gay,” “Along Came Bialy” and “Springtime for Hitler” were preserved in full form. In addition to a scaled back book, the scenery was physically small. While flashy scenery, such as Mylar curtains and the large “Old Lady Land” drop, was used in the large dance numbers, the quieter numbers had more minimalistic set pieces. Some elements were too small for a theatre as large as the Crouse Hinds and, in the smaller numbers, the cast struggled to carry energy to the back of the theatre.
A show like “The Producers” does not hinge on the scenery alone for success, but a fearlessness in executing Brooks’ signature style of comedy that ignores the politically correct. That is exactly what this production of “The Producers” does correctly.
From smaller touches, such as the Nazi arm bands on the wings of mechanical pigeons, to the larger swastika projections during “Springtime for Hitler,” this production attacked every offensive moment head-on. However, the musical did not offend simply to offend. Instead, it achieved Brooks’ goal in utilizing comedy to make fools of the villains of history, including Adolf Hitler, therefore defeating them.
In a time when political correctness has become a staple in our society, it is refreshing to see a show that is unafraid to poke fun of everybody regardless of race, gender, sexuality or religion. In laughing at all of us, “The Producers” has found what makes us common. The beauty of the vastness of the Crouse Hinds is that it is physical proof that there is still a large audience for brave comedy in the theatre.