Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe
Henry Avery directs ALT's production of Mel Brooks' well-known musical. The opening number ("Opening Night") kicks things off nicely and, while the following scenes get off to a bit of a slow start, the show hits its stride by the second half of act one. Along with the few leads, there is a large ensemble cast. Since the ensemble members are in almost every big number, many of them sport multiple costumes and character types throughout the show, demonstrating their versatility as performers. The costuming and choreography are great, for the most part; some of the dancing is not quite as sharp or synchronized as it could be, but like the show as a whole, it gets better and stronger as it goes on.
As for the leading actors, each gives an excellent performance. Art Tedesco is Max Bialystock and Dehron Foster is Max's nervous, straight-laced partner in crime, Leo Bloom. The two create a satisfying juxtaposition on stage, keeping their scenes together amusing and interesting. In addition to having over twenty years of performance experience, Foster also serves as ALT's Operations Manager. At first, Foster's Bloom seemed a bit over the top: he over-annunciates his words and his acting is almost slapstick. It works, though, given the context; musicals are all about being over the top. And, again, as the production goes on, Foster settles into his performance and refines his portrayal of Bloom, which becomes very good. He easily transforms from a man who always seems on the brink of a panic attack to a smooth, confident Broadway producer. Tedesco is a graduate of The American Academy of Dramatic Arts and has thirty years of theatrical experience under his belta testament to the performance quality for which ALT is known. He is perfect as Bialystock: scheming, charming, and willing to work extra hard to make some easy money. Tedesco has the accent and the attitude down, and knows how to play off an audience.
My favorite performances are those of Eliot Stenzel, Daniel K. Tabeling, and Joe Moncada, who play Franz Liebkind, Roger DeBris, and Carmen Ghia, respectively. Franz is the not-so-slightly unhinged Nazi sympathizer/Hitler admirer who wrote the flop of a play Bialystock and Bloom plan to produce, Springtime for Hitler. Stenzel has many Albuquerque acting credits from the last three years alone, and he has mastered the art of crafting a crazy character: as Franz, he is simultaneously hilarious and terrifying, because you never know when he might just snap.
Tabeling and Moncada make the show with their portrayal of the most incredibly gay duo you've ever seen; "Keep It Gay" is one of my favorite numbers, adorned with flamboyant performances and lots of sequins. Tabeling brings years of acting and directing experience to his performance as Roger, the director recruited for Springtime, in which he also ends up playing the lead, and it seems that Roger-as-Hitler is the role Tabeling was born to play. Moncada is equally memorable as Roger's assistant/partner, Carmen; remember Stanley Tucci's character as Meryl Streep's art director in The Devil Wears Prada? Moncada is like that, only the Broadway version: more makeup and more theatricality. Moncada's years of dance experience are evidenced by his grace and poise onstage; he also serves as the show's co-choreographer and co-costume designer. All in all, the production is lively, funny, memorable, and well worth seeing.
The Producers runs at Albuquerque Little Theatre through June 16th. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00pm and Sundays at 2:00pm, with one 8:00pm Thursday performance on June 6th. Tickets are $24 for adults, $21 for seniors, and $18 for students. For tickets and information, call the box office at 505-242-4750 ext. 2, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit albuquerquelittletheatre.org.