Regional Reviews: Phoenix
Based on the film of the same name, the show is set in 1959 where Max Bialystock is a down on his luck theatrical producer who once was "The King of Broadway." His latest show, Funny Boy (a musical version of Hamlet) has just flopped and he has to continually romance a series of little old ladies to get them to invest in his productions, something that is too taxing even for Max. When Leo Bloom, an accountant who has been sent to audit Max's books, makes the comment that Max actually raised $2,000 more than Funny Boy cost, so he actually made money on the flop, Leo states that "a producer could actually make more money with a flop than a hit." Upon hearing that, the wheels in Max's head start to turn and he comes up with the ultimate scheme to make it rich on Broadway. They need to find the worst play ever written, hire the worst director, cast the worst actors, raise $2 million dollars (twice as much money than they actually need), and when the show flops they will both be rich. Of course, in typical Brooks comedic fashion, things don't go at all as planned.
Hector Coris and Matt Newhard were quite the pair as Bialystock and Bloom, respectively. They both showed expert comic timing and Coris was probably the best sung Max I've experienced, and I've seen several, including Nathan Lane. The second act solo, "Betrayed," got a tour de force delivery. It was a stellar performance. It's too bad Bloom's songs are some of the weakest in the score, as otherwise I know Newhard would have excelled with better material. He's been excellent in the half dozen musicals and plays I've seen him in over the past year. Still, he was good and, together, the two of them had a lot of fun with the roles, playing off each other expertly.
The rest of the leads were just as winning and hilarious. As Ulla, the sexpot Swedish actress, receptionist/secretary, Marina Blue Jarrette was a gem, oozing sex appeal, with a hilarious accent and pipes of steel that sent her solo "When You Got It, Flaunt It" to the rafters. Terry Gadaire's Roger De Bris (the worst director) was stunning, bringing the right balance and combination of joy, prancing playfulness, and complete delusion the part requires. As Franz Liebkind (the worst playwright), Patrick Russo showed a nice versatility, with hilarious movements and expressions. And as De Bris' "common law assistant" Carmen Ghia, Sky Donovan exhibited the perfect combination of compassion, devotion and jealousy in his relationship with De Bris, and he and Gadaire made a realistic couple.
Director David Hock succeeded in making the humorous moments pop and the cast shine. However, the scene changes were much longer than necessary. This is something that Hock and his team really need to work on as this isn't the first time I've experienced this at an SMTC show. With the advanced technical aspects of the Tempe Center for the Arts space, long scene changes should never happen. Choreographer Bill Hotaling stuck close to the original steps that director/choreographer Susan Stroman won a Tony for, including the hilarious "Along Came Bialy" use of walkers for the little old ladies, but has also added in some fun moments of his own.
As mentioned, the production featured sets from a recent tour of the show, some lovely large backdrops and impressive costumes from other professional theatre company productions of the show. Brett R. Reese's lighting design was good when spotlights were used, but when they weren't the design didn't provide enough light for the actors close to the lip of the stage. SMTC should definitely address that for their next production. The sound design from Kent Nyland provided crisp and clear vocals; Curtis Moeller's music direction was quite effective in providing nice harmonies throughout; and conductor Kevin Hayward achieved a lush sound from the large orchestra. This production clearly benefited from their recent move to the Tempe Center for the Arts. The large set pieces and huge backdrops could never have worked in a smaller space, so it shows they are wisely using the venue to its full advantage.
The Producers is an uproarious musical with a "take no prisoners" attitude that offends almost everyone possible, but it also has a well-crafted book, a very witty score, and so much charm and heart that it's easy to see why it was such a hit on Broadway. The SMTC production showed once again that they are one of the best of the non-professional companies in town when it comes to producing classic musicals since no one else manages to use such a large orchestra to fully bring these scores to vibrant life.
The Scottsdale Musical Theatre Company's production of The Producers ran from December 31st, 2014, to January 5th, 2015, with performances at the Tempe Center for the Arts, 700 W. Rio Salado Parkway. You can get information on their upcoming production of Gypsy, which plays from June 25th to June 28th, 2015, at www.scottsdalemusicaltheater.com. Tickets can be ordered by calling 602-909-4215.
Directed and Staged by David Hock