I’ve re-read favorite books; watched favorite films over and over again; and watched back to back musicals. Why not? People listen to the same music all the time. Musical comedy is a double plus with music and comedy acting together. Mel Brooks says the essence of comedy is anticipation and payoff. That’s why people can listen to great comedians hearing the same routine, time after time.
My wife, Peggy and I saw back-to-back performances of The Producers at Lakewood Playhouse. Thursday evening was the final rehearsal and Friday evening was opening night. We enjoyed them both.
The Producers were Chap Wolfe and Will Johnson as Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom.
Lakewood Playhouse lost their actor (Brad Cerenzia) for the role of Max Bialystock. Chap Wolfe stepped in two days before opening. We saw him the day before the opening and on opening night. Managing Artistic Director John Munn welcomed the audience and warned us that Wolfe would be holding a script. Our granddaughter Daron said, “It was twenty minutes into the play before I realized he was carrying the scrip.” Over the two nights I only saw him glance at the script once, and he stayed in character. He did a great job. In the original movie, Max was played by Zero Mostel. In the 2005 he was played by Nathan Lane. Chap Wolfe may step aside if Brad Cerenzia is able to step back into the role (lower back issue), but it doesn’t really matter. Wolfe does an exceptional job.
Second banana (a vaudeville term) is played by Will Johnson. The character is Leo Bloom, an accountant. This is the third time Peggy and I have seen Johnson on stage. We saw him first in the over-the-top role of the dentist in Little Shop of Horrors. The dentist was played by Steve Martin in the musical comedy film. I preferred Johnson’s portrayal. In the original film of The Producers the character was played by Gene Wilder. I give the edge to Wilder, but just barely. Johnson was also in A Little Night Music, where his toned down performance was excellent. He has a nice eye for the action. There are numerous set and costume changes through out the two acts. In one scene, I saw him pick up a paint bucket and place it on the floor beside the office desk. A waste basket had not made it on stage and was needed for a piece of business. The paint bucket worked. Nice catch, Will.
Hayley Ewerz as Ulla did a fantastic job. She was the eye candy of the production. Locally she has performed at the Village Theatre in Issaquah and with the Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan Society. She did an amazing dance number. She is a trooper. The first night during the dance she caught her high heel in the hem of her very short dress, which took her to the floor. She squealed and incorporated it into her number. It didn’t happen the next night. It’s hard to catch your heel in a short dress and make it look graceful and sexy. Hayley succeeded. In the film version of the Broadway version, Uma Thurman played Ulla. We preferred our Ulla.
Max has a stable of older women that he romances and in exchange they fund his Broadway productions (Funny Boy, When Cousins Marry, The Breaking Wind) with checks made out to CASH. He gives each one of them a nickname to help him identify them. Betzy J Miller plays Hold Me-Touch Me. Max has a list of sexual fantasy name possibilities. We all loved Betzy as the Innocent Milkmaid. She played two other parts in the production as well. Betzy was one of the Roger DeBris production crew, and the judge at the trial. In the original film (1967), Zero Mostel’s Max was a continual leer fest over Ulla and the showgirls. I liked director Cas Pruitt’s more toned down touch as played by Wolfe.
Kyle Sinclair plays Franz Liebkind, the writer of the script Spring Time for Hitler and a dedicated follower of Adolph Elizabeth Hitler. I had seen Sinclair in Peter & The Starcatcher, which earned him the Best Leading Actor at the Playhouse Theatre Awards. I did not recognize him in lederhosen as an off-kilter Nazi. The revolver was precious.
Henry Talbot Dorset played Roger DeBris, the pretentious, cross-dressing, worst director in New York, and tap dancing Hitler replacement. Matched with his butler and toady, Carmen Ghia played by Erik Davis, the two were hilarious. Davis was flamboyant, coy, and such a good dancer.
It was a large cast and the show runs two hours and 48 minutes. If you don’t end up with favorite actors and scenes from the show, then you better become your own worst producers asking, “Where did we go right?” My favorite scenes: “Unhappy” with the tall tables and adding machines . . . very nice touch. The marching old lady drill team with the walkers hangs in my memory.
There is not enough space for the accolades. Director Cas Pruitt did a great job, Music Director Deborah Lynn Armstrong had me humming; the choregraphy by Ashley Roy had me shuffling my feet, and Blake “Ain’t No Such Thing as a Flimsy Set” York did his usual fine work with the stage. I cringed each time I saw Mark Anthony and Erik Davis leap off the set for a perfect landing (and Mark was barefoot).
The show runs through July 7th. I hope they extend it. We might need to go again! A number of the shows are already sold out. Don’t miss this production. – tix4.centerstageticketing.com/sites/lakewood_washington/showdates.php?s_id=148