Sunday, February 1, 2009

Review - The Producers @ Musical Theatre West

The Producers
book by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan
music and lyrics by Mel Brooks
choreography (recreated from the original) by Matthew J. Vargo
directed by Steven Glaudini
Musical Theatre West @
The Carpenter Performing Arts Center, Long Beach
through February 15
What is left to be said about The Producers? It has toured and been produced many times over. You either love Mel Brooks or you hate him. I happen to be one of those who like what Mel Brooks does. Whether it be staged or on film, the incredible silliness of the words, story and music latches onto your private laugh track for all time. This Producers is exceptional because it has the original touring sets and costumes, tip-top direction and choreography and best of all, a truly smart cast headed by Larry Raben, Michael Kostroff and David Engel.
There is no attempt here to copy the antics of Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick or Jason Alexander and Martin Short. The actors - all - play their roles as written, with no personality excesses or quirks, or unnecessary shtick. It's good solid work. Raben is a natural as Leo Bloom, making the annoying mannerisms totally believable. Kostroff, reminding me of Jon Lovitz, fits Max Bialystock like a glove, and like Raben, plays the character without pushing for laughs. Brooks makes the dialogue funny enough; there's no need to go over the top!
Engel, who never ceases to surprise, makes Roger Debris one diva of a director, and his Hitler is hilariously loveable. Kudos also to Michael Paternostro as his 'queenly' partner Carmen, to the beautiful (is she 7 foot tall?) Sarah Cornell as delicious Ulla, to Nick Santa Maria as a wanna-be butch Franz Liebkind and to Tracy Lore, an adorable standout as Hold Me-Touch Me.
This is a wonderful evening of fun and camp - and yet another triumph for Musical Theatre West.
5 out of 5 stars


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