Broadway’s latest smash hit, “Hamilton,” was famously nominated for a record 16 Tony Awards this spring. But what musical garnered the most Tony wins in history? 2001’s “The Producers,” with a dozen. “Hamilton” is in second place with 11.
Due to its popularity, “Hamilton” tickets are expensive and mostly sold out for months to come.
On the other hand, it will be easy for Southern Ocean County theatergoers to take in “The Producers” thanks to the Bellarine Theatre Company. That troupe will perform the show at 7 p.m. on July 29 and 30 and Aug. 4, 5 and 6, and at 3 p.m. on July 31 and Aug. 7 at Pinelands Regional High School.
More good news – tickets are a mere $18 for adults and $15 for seniors and students (VIP seats are $20). They may be purchased online at btco.booktix.com or at the door. For more information call Bellarine’s founder and artistic director Jessica Huch at 609-661-2083 or email her at Jessica@bellarinetheatre.com. Bellarine didn’t issue a money back guarantee in case you don’t laugh, but it could have. The show is pure hilarity.
If Neil Simon was America’s most popular comedic playwright of the second half of the 20th century then Mel Brooks, who worked with Simon as a writer for Sid Caesar’s “Your Show of Shows,” was surely his movie counterpart thanks to films such as “Blazing Saddles,” “Young Frankenstein,” “Spaceballs” and “Robin Hood: Men In Tights.” The first movie Brooks directed, though, was 1968’s “The Producers,” now ranked as the 11th best comedy of the of the past 100 years by the American Film Institute. So it was only fitting that when Brooks decided to conquer Broadway he revisited “The Producers,” with the book of the musical following the script of the movie fairly closely.
Max Bialystock (Scott Banks) is a down on his luck Broadway producer, so down on his luck that he has to bed elderly women such as “Hold Me – Touch Me” (Jeanne Sutton) to pay his bills. He hires a new accountant, the young Leo Bloom (Alex Henderson), who himself dreams of being a Broadway producer. While looking over Bialystock’s books Bloom comes up with an idea. It would be easier to make money on a flop than a hit if one were to oversubscribe backers and then close on opening night because, after all, nobody is going to audit a flop.
“You could’ve raised a million dollars, put on your $100,000 flop, and kept the rest.”
So the pair searches for the worst play possible, a sure loser, and they find one in “Springtime for Hitler: A Gay Romp with Adolph and Eva at Berchtesgaden,” written by ex-Nazi Franz Liebkind (Ian Mullin). It is not only horribly bad but extremely offensive. They’ll raise $2 million (“There’s a lot of little old ladies out there!), watch the show go down in flames and escape to Rio with their money. Upping the ante, they’ll hire the worst director possible in Roger DeBris (Victor Brescia) and let Liebkind play the lead in his own play. What could possibly go wrong? Plenty.
Bloom has fallen in love with Ulla Inga Hansen Benson Yansen Tallen Svaden Swanson (Meagan Hoer), a Swedish bombshell the duo hired as a secretary. So when the show amazingly becomes a talk-of-the-town hit Bloom and Ulla flee to Brazil, leaving Bialystock to his fate. A judge finds him “incredibly guilty” and packs him off to Sing Sing.
Actually, the musical has a happy ending, which will not be given away here.
Brooks is not only one of the funniest Americans in history, but he was the original Mr. Politically Incorrect. Releasing a film such as “The Producers” in 1968 was a daring proposition considering it seemed highly unlikely millions of WWII vets would find anything funny about Hitler. In 2001 he loaded his Broadway show with homosexual camp, a decided risk – blacks can joke about blacks, Latinos can joke about Latinos, but can a twice-married-to-a-woman Jew crack funny about gays?
Well, he could, because he’s funny.
This isn’t a review of Bellarine’s “The Producers” because a rehearsal could only be seen several days before opening night. But even at such a raw stage some things about the production stood out.
It is perfectly physically cast.
It has some great production numbers, with the little-known “Keep It Gay” just as hilarious as the well-known “Springtime for Hitler.” It is obvious that the performers are having fun, which always projects into an audience. Finally, it’s Mel Brooks. What more do you have to say?
— Rick Mellerup