Dances with Hitler
The Producers finally has made it to Sactown. It took only three years for Mel Brooks’ 2001 Tony-winning Broadway musical to wend its way to the outer regions of the country. And it made it to the capital city just one year after it debuted in San Francisco. It’s a miracle when you think about it, considering how long it usually takes for Broadway hits to find us.
Judging by the plans for next season’s Broadway Series at the Community Center—which includes shows like Hairspray, Movin’ Out and the long-anticipated The Lion King—it looks like we’re no longer considered the ugly stepchild when it comes to doling out roadshows. We’re more like the forgotten little sibling who’s finally getting some attention.
We also get The Producers for a month-long run. This means there are substantial, imaginative sets at the Community Center Theater instead of the flimsy scenery-on-wheels that usually accompanies the shorter theater stays. We also get a cast that may be light in name recognition but heavy in true Broadway talent.
The Producers is a musical version of Brooks’ 1968 movie of the same name. The story remains the same: Failed Broadway producer Max Bialystock (Bob Amaral) realizes that, with the right financial high jinks, he could make more money with a flop than with a hit. He drags his reluctant accountant, Leo Bloom (Andy Taylor), along in his scheme for staging a guaranteed failure: the musical Springtime for Hitler, with singing Nazis and a dancing Führer.
Brooks expanded the story by adding a slew of clever songs and funny scenes. The result is a good old-fashioned song-and-dance Broadway musical with a twisted sense of humor. You’ll leave with pictures of tap-dancing Nazis, chorus-line chickens and much-maligned singing office workers.
There is one downside: Though Brooks is famous for being an equal-opportunity insulter, some of his stereotyping seems more tired and dated than shocking. However, because his humor is so politically incorrect, and because the songs are so wickedly witty, you can forgive his old-school comedy.
The two leads are up to the daunting task of making the roles their own. Amaral and Taylor are quintessential Broadway hoofers and singers, capable of generating the needed chemistry between themselves and with the audience. The supporting cast is also a font of musical talents. They sing and dance with energy and enthusiasm aplenty.