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New Jersey by Bob Rendell

Bialystock and Bloom Set Up Shop
West of the Hudson

Also see Bob's review of Don't Hug Me

The Producers
Jason Simon and Austin Owen
A considerably cut down, but reasonable facsimile of Mel Brooks' smash hit musical has arrived for a one week engagement at NJPAC in Newark. The young non-Equity cast works hard and enthusiastically, and the results were pleasing to a first night audience which awarded the cast with a semi standing ovation. While there is little to object to and the tour producers are delivering honest value, the view from here is that the overall effect is dullish and decidedly lacking in sufficient laughter.

Inevitably, the performances of the relatively inexperienced Jason Simon (Bialystock) and Austin Owen (Bloom) fail to capture a great number of the comic details and nuances, as well as the flexible, sharp comic interplay and affectionate teamwork, that made Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick truly hilarious. Both have been directed to deliver replica performances, and, on a surface level, both succeed. Much of the time, Simon smoothly captures Lane's inflections in speech and song, and is a pleasant presence. However, the lost performance details, less precise comic timing, and inferior punch line inflections seriously reduce the hilarity. It should be noted that Simon does extremely well with his "Betrayed" showcase number. In reviewing the musical's happenings in this number, Simon, imitating an audience member perusing a Playbill at intermission, says "he's good; he's no Nathan, but he's good," garnering his biggest laugh. Owen performs well, has a strong singing voice, and is a good Leo. However, there was a hilarious physicality and daffiness to Broderick's Leo which Owen never approaches.

Elizabeth Pawlowski is a delightful and lovely Ulla. Brad Nacht is a fine (and good looking) Roger De Bris. However, Nacht does not nearly match either Gary Beach's dancing or triumphant broad hilarity in "Springtime for Hitler." John West is a fine Carmen Ghia. Jesse Coleman completely misfires as an all-American sounding Franz Liebkind.

Nigel West (direction) and Leigh Constantine (choreography) are credited with recreating the work of Susan Stroman. Given the inexperience of the cast, it is not surprising that both recreations (especially the choreography) are pale copies lacking in detail.

The white painted producers' office set (act two, scene 1) has been jettisoned with the loss of only one joke. Actually, I found the loss of the bright, bulb lighted signs of the titles of Bialystock and Bloom shows to come, replaced by not very readable signs painted on a curtain (that sign on the unlighted lower left was for 47th Street) a greater loss. At least a couple of other jokes have mysteriously disappeared along with Brooks' vocalization, "don't be stupid, be a smarty, come and join the Nazi party." The scene which draws the evening's first as well as most pronounced and extended laughter is the one in which Max and Leo go to Roger De Bris' penthouse to hire him to direct.

All in all, this is a respectable touring edition of The Producers. It has the virtue of being populated by talented, hard working young performers who clearly convey that they are delighted to be a part of it.

The Producers continues performances (Eves: Wed. & Thurs. 7:30 p.m./ Fri. & Sat. 8 p.m./ Mats. Thurs. & Sun. 1:30 p.m./ Sat. 2 p.m.) through December 24 at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (Prudential Hall), One Center Street, Newark, NJ 07102. Box Office: 888-466-5722; online www.njpac.org

The Producers Music and Lyrics by Mel Brooks/ Book by Brooks and Thomas Meehan/ Original Direction by Susan Stroman recreated by Nigel West

Cast
Max Bialystock………………..Jason Simon
Leo Bloom……………………Austin Owen
Franz Liebkind……………..Jesse Coleman
Carmen Ghia……………………..John West
Roger De Bris………………….Brad Nacht
Ulla……………....Elizabeth Pawlowski
Noah Aberlin, Joshua Bennett, Adam Brown,
Thay Floyd, Olivia Goode, Julia Goretsky,
Liz Helms, Alison Marchese, Karyn Mcnay,
Travis Nesbitt, Erika Odegard, Heidi Suhr,
Tricia Tanguy, Allyson Tolbert, Colin Trahan,
Matthew Wade;
Lauren Kadel, Chris Suchan,
Thad Turner Wilson (Swings)

For tour schedule: go to : http://www.producersontour.com/


Photo: Joan Marcus


Be sure to Check the current schedule for theatre in New Jersey


- Bob Rendell



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