‘The Producers’ at South County High School

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What does Rio, a Swedish bombshell, singing and dancing gays and Hitler all have in common? Absolutely nothing, but in Mel Brooks’ musical The Producers all come together in an extraordinary hilarious production. These past two weekends South County High School in Lorton, Virginia tackled such a musical.

Ethan Schulze (Max Bialystock) and Cameron Powell (Leo Bloom) strike a deal.  Photo by Diane Jackson Schnoor.
Ethan Schulze (Max Bialystock) and Cameron Powell (Leo Bloom) strike a deal.
Photo by Diane Jackson Schnoor.

While The Producers does not usually scream high school with its crude humor, sexual references and of course, dancing Nazis-I walked in a little worried on what I would find onstage and how toned down the production would be if at all. To my pleasant surprise South County produced brought Broadway to a high school theatre stage. South County High School took on one of Mel Brooks’ greatest hits giving it all the justice it deserved!

The Producers written by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan, with Music and Lyrics by Brooks, tells the story of Max Bialystock, a washed out Broadway producer, and Leopold (Leo) Bloom, an accountant dreaming of becoming a producer, who after realizing that more of an individual profit could be made from  a flop over a hit. Max proposes a five step plan to make a quick, illegal 2 million dollars. When Max and Leo choose a musical that glorifies Hitler written by a hiding Nazi, hire an extremely flamboyant director, a Swedish lead who speaks poor English and go as far as wishing everyone “luck” versus the typical theatre “break a leg” on opening night  (which leads to ‘bad luck’) will their unusual production flop as expected or be a surprising success sending the two to jail?

Leading the production were Sophomore Ethan Schulze as Max Bialystock and Junior Cameron Powell as Leo Bloom. The two shared ongoing chemistry leaving the audience in stiches. The loving playfulness continued for the duration of the show until “’Till Him,” which showed more of the genuine side of the business partnership and friendship. Highlights were Powell’s “I Wanna Be A Producer” and Schulze’s “Betrayed” where the vocals of the two really got an opportunity to shine as well as well as Powell’s dancing abilities and Schulze’s solo comedic ability.

While the two leads were outstanding, the supporting cast was nothing less than spectacular. Swedish Marilyn Monroe-esque Ulla Inga Hansen Bensen Yonsen Tallen, played by Junior Cara Bachman, strutted on stage making her appearance known with “When You Got It, Flaunt It” leaving all guys drooling. Bachman’s onstage presence captivated the audience and impressed me with her ability to maintain an exaggerated accent effortlessly. Junior Jack Gereski, playing Hitler enthusiast and Nazi playwright Franz Liebkind, was hysterical with with “Der Gutten Tag Hop-Clop,” as well as his “in case of arrest” speech.

Kyle McKnight (Roger De Bris). Photo by Penny Glackin.
Kyle McKnight (Roger De Bris). Photo by Penny Glackin.

Stealing the show was the flamboyant director Roger DeBris, played by Sophomore Kyle McKnight his assistant Carmen, played with flamboyancy by Junior Cole Miles, and their fellow Gay production team: Bryan the Set Designer (Junior T.J. Gouterman), Kevin the Costume Designer (Senior Sam Weggeman), Scott the Choreographer (Freshman Craig Allison) and Shirley the Lighting Designer (Junior Maya Armstrong), who lit up the stage in “Keep It Gay.” From the first note of the song to the curtain call they were constantly energetic, and completely over-the-top.

All of this onstage magic could not have been possible without the direction of Kathie McCormally, musical direction of Jennifer Willard, choreography of Amy Hard and musical conducting of Gary English and his fine group of musicians. McCormally’s direction kept the flow and pace of the story constantly moving and creating blocking that would allow for quick and easy stage transitions (shout out to Stage Managers: Junior Alison Sall and Freshman Evan Sparks).

Hard’s choreography allowed the less experienced dancers and features dancers: Seniors Emmy Brien, Kelsey Davis, Darby Glackin and Kathy Oh, and Juniors Rachel Snare and Katelyn Sparks, Sophomore Sam Sharrett, and Freshmen Darcy Dougherty and Anna Luczynski. The teamwork of Willard and English (and his 31 student orchestra) contributed to the professionalism displayed on the stage. The elaborate set was constructed by: Muhammad Aqeel, Jason Doroski, T.J. Gouterman, David Kleppinger, Erin Kormis, Aaron Lichstrahl, Ray Martin, Kyle McKnight, Adonnys Medrano, Cole Miles, James Morrow, Charles Rigenbach, Leonardo Rios, Alison Sall, Evan Sparks, Jesse Wheeler, and Daniel Yazbeck.

Quality lighting was designed by Junior Gillian Schuneman, sound design by Junior Taylor Nelson, and costume design by Seniors Kaci Wertz and Ruth Scherr.

Jack Gereski (Franz Liebkind). Photo by Penny Glackin.
Jack Gereski (Franz Liebkind). Photo by Penny Glackin.

With potential cuts in the arts looming -South County High School is one of many schools in Fairfax County affected by the potential loss of Judy Bowns as FCPS Speech and Theatre Arts Specialist. Please help Fairfax County Public Schools continue to grow and flourish in performing arts by signing the online survey by Thursday May 22nd 2014! Thank you!

Running Time: Two and a half hours, with one 15-minute intermission.

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The Producers plays May 2nd, 3rd, 9th, and 10th at 7:00 p.m. at South County High School – 8501 Silverbrook Road, in Lorton, VA. 

LINKS

‘Meet The Producers’ at South County High School: Part 1: Cameron Powell and Ethan Schulze.

Meet Ulla, Roger, and Franz of ‘The Producers’ at South County High School: Cara Bachman, Kyle McKnight, and Jack Gereski.