A Review

Partners In Crime

By R. J. Donovan

Mel Brooks’ “The Producers” took New York by storm a few seasons ago. As the two theatrical producers who intentionally set out to stage a flop, Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick were the dynamic duo of Broadway. And for good reason. Bright, belly-laugh performances by truly funny guys.

When Lane and Broderick left the New York production, so did some of the luster. False starts came with highly touted replacement casts, such that Lane’s original standby, Brad Oscar, ultimately took over the leading role and did a wonderful job with it.

When the national tour set off on the road, it opened here in Boston. Brad Oscar was again playing the role of Max Bialystock and he was great. Even without the star power of Lane and Broderick, the touring company was tight and funny and the show zipped along like lightning. It’s an old-fashioned musical with bouncy production numbers, tap dancing chorus girls and broad comedy. And it was beautifully presented.

A year later, a lot of the same company is back in town for a quick two-week stop at The Colonial. And while the show is funny, it doesn’t have the zany, crackling edge that previously exploded off the stage.

Based on Brooks’ 1962 film comedy of the same name, here’s the recap: down on his luck producer Max Bialystock and mousy accountant Leo Bloom hit upon a foolproof plan to make a financial killing. Raise more capital than needed to produce a play they KNOW will flop. When the show closes, there are no customers, no income and therefore no need to pay investors. Bialystock and Bloom can abscond with the cash, head to Rio and live happily ever after.

So they set out in search of the most horrendous, horrific, offensive play they can find and come up with “Springtime For Hitler,” a neo-Nazi musical romp. Then they hire the worst actors in town, the worst director on the planet, and intentionally summon every backstage superstition by wishing everyone good luck on opening night.

However, the play turns out to be so bad, it’s good. With a hit on their hands, Bialystock and Bloom are caught in their little scam and wind up in prison. Along the way, the irreverence of the show skewers everybody in sight, from gays to Jews to Germans to the elderly to pigeons.

Bob Amaral (left) is now cast as Max Bialystock, the more weighty of the two leading roles. He works hard and he mugs. But he works hard and he mugs.

Back as Leo Bloom is Andy Taylor (right, in photo). Also returning are Ida Leigh Curtis as Ulla, the Swedish bombshell secretary, and Rich Affannato as the preening common law assistant to garish director/choreographer Roger DeBris, played this time by Stuart Marland.

One of the best things about the show remains Bill Nolte (left) as Franz Liebkind, the Nazi playwright with a soft spot for Dah Fuhrer. As well, Ashton Byrum sings gloriously as the Aryan-wonder who leads the silliness in the “Springtime for Hitler” production number.

If you’ve never seen “The Producers,” you’ll probably enjoy the experience. Certainly much of the crowd did on opening night. However, if you’ve made previous visits, it may pale somewhat by comparison.



"The Producers" is at The Colonial Theatre, 106 Boylston Street in Boston, through March 6. For information, call 617-931-2787.

Production photos: Paul Kolnik

-- OnStage Boston



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