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San Francisco by Richard Connema

Mel Brook’s The Producers
Returns to the Bay Area

Also see Richard's reviews of Gypsy and Movin' Out

Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan’s The Producers, the most awarded show in Broadway history, is making its South Bay premiere at the San Jose Center for Performing Arts. The musical is playing a limited engagement through July 25th.

Bob Amaral (Broadway revival of Forum and Pumbaa in the national touring company of The Lion King) joined the company in Chicago last year and is playing the incomparable producer, with Andy Taylor (originated the role of Howard in Moon Over Buffalo and 4th Officer Joseph Boxhall in Broadway's Titanic) as the mousy accountant Leo Bloom.

This is our third time to see the zany, fast paced musical, adapted from Mel Brooks’ classic 1968 comedy film. We saw the now famous team of Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick at the St. James in New York and the first touring company starring Lewis J. Stadlen and Don Stephenson when it played here [see Richard's earlier review]. The musical walked off with 12 Tony Awards in 2001, 11 Drama Desk Awards, 8 Outer Critic Circle Awards plus many other accolades.

The plot is probably known by everyone who has an inkling of show business musicals. This is the story of down-on-his-luck theatrical producer Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom, his meek accountant. Together they hatch the ultimate scam to raise more money than is needed to finance a sure-fire Broadway flop, then pocket the difference. Their theatrical fiasco turns out to be Springtime for Hitler, which becomes a gigantic success.

The Producers' current touring company is fresh and full of life. It's exactly the same show as as on Broadway only 10% smaller. This is one of the slickest tours that we have had in the bay area, with a tight ensemble of twenty two and a full orchestral sound. The show is everything a Broadway musical is meant to be, and its offensiveness is evenhandedly universal since it is meant to comically “offend” every race, creed and sexual orientation on this earth. Just take it in stride and you will have the time of your life.

The Producers
Andy Taylor, Bob Amaral, Stuart Marland, Rich Addannato and Company

Bob Amaral and Andy Taylor handle the leading roles and both play off each other's comic ability with impeccable timing. Bob Amaral brings to mind the great Jackie Gleason at his comic best. There is also a little of Nathan Lane in his performance when he plays to the audience. He has a good singing voice, especially in the difficult song “Betrayed,” handling it without a flaw.

Andy Taylor makes the accountant a stronger personality than Broderick or Stephenson have done. He starts out a perfect comic nerd and goes into Jerry Lewis hysteria during his security blanket scene in the first act. He has a wonderfully warm singing voice and is very good in the hoofing department. His lightness of foot in both “I Wanna Be a Producer” and “That Face” is excellent.

Ida Leigh Curtis, who comes directly from the Broadway production, is energizing as the Swedish blond bombshell Ulla. She is terrific at singing, dancing and comedy; however, the sound system of the theatre makes her lyrics in “When You Got It, Flaunt It” obtuse. Stuart Marland as Roger De Bris, the flamboyant “worst director in the world,” does a great camp, over the top version of the character. He looks stunning in his silver sequinned dress and makes a wonderful gay Hitler. His associate Carmen Ghia, played by Rich Affannato, is a hilarious, ostentatious, flighty queen with wonderful eye shadow. He flies about the stage like Tinkerbell. Bill Nolte is a hoot as the insane Nazi author of the worst play.

Susan Stroman’s choreography and direction doesn’t lose its focus for a single moment. The big production number, the famous Springtime for Hitler, is as good as it is in the Broadway production. The chorus boys and girls are dynamic. The sets are the same as New York, and they are first rate. There orchestra under Steven Tyler has a great, full sound.

The Producers runs through Sunday, July 25 at the San Jose Performing Arts Center presented by the American Musical Theatre of San Jose first production of the 2004-2005 season. For tickets call 1-888-455-SHOW (7469) or visit www.amtsj.org.

Rent is their next production and opens on September 21.


Photo: Paul Kolnik


Cheers - and be sure to Check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area


- Richard Connema



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