Funny Boy, a musical version of Hamlet, A Breaking Wind, She Schtups to Conquer–could anyone predict how much those fictional plays would wow audiences? The Little Theatre of Alexandria’s The Producers explores the challenges of putting on a hit. You can’t lose with this show: the book for this musical is by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan, and Brooks wrote the music and lyrics. Colin Taylor provided music direction and conduction, and Stefan Sittig choreographed. Director Kristina Friedgen has directed a show that’s fun from start to finish.
The one-time king of Broadway producers, Max Bialystock (Steve Cairns), is on a skid and needs a hit. He teams with accountant Leo Bloom, who wants to become a theater producer. Bloom figures out that they can make a mint by producing a flop, and they find the worst talent they can and produce Springtime for Hitler, which smashes the box office, but lands Bialystock and Bloom in a legal conundrum.
Sittig, who has worked on over 90 shows, made the dance numbers in The Producers pop. The number “The King of Broadway,” featured a Horah-style (a Jewish dance that involves two concentric circles of dancers) dance and Cairns’ excellent solo. The choreography in “Springtime for Hitler,” performed by the ensemble, was Broadway-level.
The lighting, which was often bounced off the white walls of Dan Remmers’ set, was alternately various colors, for example, blue, green and red. Ken and Patti Crowley designed lighting that added much production value. Interestingly, the orchestra was elevated above the set, and not in an orchestra pit.
Cairns, Ryan Phillips, who played Leo Bloom, and Sirena Dib, who played Ulla, Bloom’s love interest, were a powerful triumvirate in this show. Cairns and Phillips had a wonderful duet in “We Can Do It.” Phillips and Dib dueted well in “That Face.” Cairns was just as over-the-top as Max Bialystock was. Phillips affected the mousiness of Leo Bloom. Dib was sultry in her scenes.
“Keep It Gay” stood out because of theater director Roger DeBris (Brian Lyons-Burke) and his assistant/lover Carmen Ghia (Timothy R. King in his Little Theatre of Alexandria debut). Their interplay and mutual barbs kept their scenes crackling.
Who could pull off the role of a Nazi who lives in New York City in the 1950s, writes plays and keeps singing pigeons? Chad Ramsey, in his first musical in over two decades, brought the delusional, Hitler-loving Franz Leibkind to life.
Friedgen’s direction was flawless. The show came off as a perfected whole without spot or wrinkle. Kristin Apker’s property design included an impressive-looking safe, a vintage telephone, old counting machines, and a large statue/replica of Michelangelo’s David. Jean Schlicting and Kit Sibley especially excelled on the costume design for the Chrysler Building-style silver dress they put on Lyons-Burke, and the showgirl costumes they put on several of the ensemble dancers in “I Wanna Be a Producer.”
Friedgen has directed one of the better musicals of this theater season. The Producers is a must-see musical.
Running Time: Approximately three hours, including a 15-minute intermission.