Regional Reviews: Phoenix
Based on Brooks' 1968 film of the same name, the story focuses on down-on-his-luck theatrical producer Max Bialystock who once was "The King of Broadway." Accountant Leo Bloom is sent to audit the books for Max's latest show, which closed on opening night, and notices that Max actually raised $2,000 more than the show cost, so he actually made money on the flop. Leo speculates that "a producer could actually make more money with a flop than a hit." Upon hearing those words, the wheels in Max's head start to turn and he concocts the ultimate scheme to make it rich on Broadway. If they can guarantee the show will flopby finding the worst play ever written, hiring the worst director, and casting the worst actorsand raise $2 million dollars, twice as much money than they actually need, when the show quickly closes they will both be rich. Of course, in typical Brooks comedic fashion, things don't go at all as planned.
With a "take no prisoners" attitude, The Producers is offensive yet also completely hilarious. It has a well-crafted book, a very witty score, and lovable quirky and charming characters who are full of heart. DST's production, under the confident direction of Mitchell Glass, has a cast who throw themselves headfirst into the insanity.
Matthew R. Harris and Rob Dominguez make a winning twosome as Max and Leo. They both have clear, rich singing voices and good comic timing that, when combined with expert facial expressions and humorous body movement, deliver heightened and hilarious performances. Harris' performance of Max includes many moments of exasperation that work well to portray this exhausted, money-driven womanizing producer who is just trying to make a buck. Harris' act two solo "Betrayed" is a tour de force and a major highlight. Dominguez' portrayal includes many nuanced layers to show that, while milquetoast Leo is prone to hysterics and has a fond connection to his safety blanket, he blooms under Max's tutelage. Dominguez' sweet voice also adds a nice touch of romance and sincerity to his numbers.
In the supporting cast, Tim Paul Fiscus is a hoot as the "worst director" that Max and Leo hire, Roger DeBris. Fiscus doesn't play the gay DeBris as overly flamboyant, but instead as a confident, eccentric man who has moments of insanity. In act two his character is asked to assume some additional responsibilities in the show he is directing and that is when Fiscus truly excels in a flashy and animated performance that had me in tears of laughter. Danica Rocha is a knock out as Ulla, the sexy Swedish actress who gets pulled into the action. The romantic moments she and Dominguez share are full of charm with a big dose of heat. As Franz Liebkind, the author who has written the worst play Max and Leo find, which is a musical all about Hitler, Eric Bond makes every moment he's on stage pop with hilarity. Zack Pepe has a few fun moments as Carmen Ghia, DeBris' "common law assistant." While there are a few members of the ensemble who don't have the greatest singing voices, they make up for it with the amount of vim and vigor they inflict in the multiple parts they play.
Glass and Rick Sandifer designed the set and, while DST's in the round space doesn't allow for any major set elements, the abundance of set pieces and the use of three additional areas on the upper level of the theatre easily portray the many locations of the plot. Allyson Van Patten's music direction achieves some nice sounds, especially from the leads, while Kim Rodriguez' fun and upbeat choreography adds plenty of humorous moments. Her steps for the love duet "That Face" for Dominguez and Rocha is a perfect blend of comedy and romance. Aurelie Flores' costumes play up both the humor and the period of the show.
The Producers might be a bit shocking for people who are easily offended, especially considering that it mocks one of the greatest tragedies of the 20th century. But this is comedy satire at its best and I believe this show that spoofs Hitler is the funniest musical to hit Broadway in the past thirty years. Desert Stages production has excellent leads and impressive direction and is a worthy production of this classic comedy hit.
For more information on The Producers at Desert Stages Theatre in Scottsdale through May 7th, 2017, call 480 483-1664 or visit desertstages.org.
Music and Lyrics by Mel Brooks