When you got it, flaunt it! And boy do they got it. And they flaunt it too! Who, you ask? Why Silhouette Stages with their dazzling and titillating production of The Producers. As it turns out you can make more money with a big Broadway flop than with a hit, and that’s exactly the scheme that has-been producer Max Bialystock and mousy accountant Leo Bloom concoct to drum up two million dollars and escape to Rio in this uproarious musical comedy. Directed by Mo Dutterer and Ric Ryder with Musical Direction provided by Michael Tan, the zany musical masterpiece of Mel Brooks – and all-time Tony Award-winning musical with 12 awards – comes leaping to life on the stage this season.
There’s nothing like a show on Broadway and the same can be said for having a Broadway quality orchestra playing live from the off-stage pit. It enhances the performance and makes for a great experience. Lead by Musical Director Michael Tan, the four-person orchestra brings the enchantment of live music to the production, keeping pace for the performers on-stage and adjusting when necessary so that no one ends up ahead or behind the beat. Tan’s execution of this process is nothing short of a miracle in some places, done with such impeccable timing that you almost never notice the tempo shifts.
Falling hand in hand with a brilliant orchestra is the classic dance steps put into place by Choreographer Tina DeSimone. The old-lady walker tap-dancing scene in “Along Came Bialy.” is by far my favorite as the chorus of old ladies strut their stuff in perfect rhythm using their walkers in place of tap shoes. DeSimone’s flashy style that incorporates simple moves designed to look complex is echoed throughout the production among the ensemble, particularly with the chorus girls in “I Want To Be A Producer.” Her fancy footwork even finds a cane-swinging toe-tapping finale for ““I Want To Be A Producer” and really keeps the dancers of the production on their toes.
A strong ensemble brings a welcome sound to group numbers like “Opening Night” and “Springtime For Hitler.” The group dynamic, comprised of a dozen talented performers, offers a boisterous sound with practically perfect pitch and a keen sense of rhythm and tempo. Springing up from the masses is Debbie Mobley as the iconic “Hold Me-Touch Me” dirty old lady. Breathing a hilarious breath of sex-starved life into this batty old broad, Mobley draws all eyes to her whether she’s leading the chorus of old ladies assisting Max in “Till Him,” or she’s flying over the couch to tackle that fire down below in the producer’s office. Mobley is the cat’s meow in all things over 85 and makes for one hell of a performance.
The other ensemble face, who literally wears the role of many faces— including that of a little old lady — is Neal Townsend. Lending his veritable acting skills to whichever situation needs him; be it Sabu the exotic household servant, Donald Dinsmore the little wooden boy who moves and sound like an ancient Pinocchio, or the nasally, stuffed-shirt CPA Mr. Marks — Townsend is an absolute riot. Performing at least a half dozen characters he’s the man to keep your eye on for all the added antics of hilarity.
Boasting a thick German accent and the perfect sense of comic timing is Franz Liebkind (Matt Scheer). Bordering on the edge of truly frightening and over the cuckoo’s nest crazy, Scheer has brilliant vocal endurance for his belted hold in “In Old Bavaria.” But his true moment to shine with the red colors of his Nazi pride are during “Der Guten Tag Hop-Clop” and “Haben Sie gehört das deutsche Band?” Both numbers have Scheer bouncing about and singing with German pride, channeling his character’s psychotic anger into bright uplifting song, so much so that you simply won’t be able to stop laughing.
While comic acting may hold up Max Bialystock’s (Ryan Geiger) character, it is just a little disappointing to hear his singing fall short. Geiger’s voice is technically flawless, he can hit the notes and his vocal endurance is beyond impressive, but unfortunately there is a sharp disconnect between his emotionally engaging speaking character of Max and when he switches into singing Max. Geiger is the epitome of the theatrical used-to-be, giving laugh line after laugh line. His interactions with Leo are priceless, and when he’s singing songs that involve spoken word, like “The King of Broadway” and “Betrayed” you really get a sense of his frustrations.
The other unfortunate disappointment for this production comes from the Swedish sex kitten Ulla (Rachel Weir). While she looks the part and even struts about with a physical confidence that portrays her deep understanding of the character’s motto ‘if you got it, flaunt it,’ her vocal abilities are not suited for the demanding numbers that the character sings. Weir falls in and out of her debut song “When You’ve Got It, Flaunt It,” unable to stay with the key of the song and when she goes for the big belt that the character announces she’s about to do her voice just dies in the upper register. Weir does valiantly attempt to make up for what she lacks in her ability to sing with her sex appeal and charismatic charm. And her attempt at the Swedish accent is pretty impressive.
All of the glitz and the glam of this musical come from the two vivacious men that delve into the stereotype of flaming queen like there’s no tomorrow. Carmen Ghia (Kevin James Logan) brings a whole new meaning to screaming like a little girl when he shrieks in both delight and terror throughout the production. Logan masters a series of mannerisms that are just comical beyond belief . His ability to turn nearly every spoken word into a singing song is uproarious. Logan is the perfect match for this role and the flamboyant chemistry shared with Roger DeBris (Rick Robertson) is just fabulous!
Rick Robertson steals the show, hands down. He’s a showstopper from the moment he glides onto the stage and just blows the audience out of the water with his sensational voice and ability to command the character of both the diva drama drag queen and later as the flaming Hitler. Robertson lives up to the line in the play— our leading man was so gay he nearly flew away— in the best possible sense of the line. He’s an uproarious addition to the cast, belting emotion and attitude into “Keep It Gay” and “You Never Say ‘Good Luck’ On Opening Night.” A five star-review is well deserving of this man all by himself.
The star of the show, thankfully his thunder happens in separate numbers from Robertson or the whole stage would erupt in explosive lightning, comes in the meager man Leo Bloom (Brian Sackett). With a powerful and versatile vocal range for numbers like “I Want To Be A Producer,” and “That Face,” Sackett pours his heart and soul into every number he sings. He’s playful and progressive as a performer, transforming his mousy character into a true glamorous Broadway producer before all is said and done. Sackett is the perfect choice for this role and does the character a great deal of justice.
Running Time: Approximately 2 hours and 40 minutes with one intermission.
The Producers plays through March 10, 2013 at The Slayton House Theatre — Wilde Lake Village Center – 10400 Cross Fox Lane, in Columbia, MD. Tickets are available for purchase at the door, or online.