It’s difficult to pinpoint my favorite part of Mercury Theater’s production of The Producers. From a pitch perfect portrayal of a flamboyant Hitler complete with a bedazzled swastika, to the emotional breakdown of an aspiring producer who misses his blanket, this musical is a good time. Director L. Walter Stearns and his cast of wildly talented actors succeed in putting on a Broadway-caliber play in a way-off-Broadway theater.
Mel Brooks’ classic transports the audience back to the world of Broadway producers where we find the struggling producer Max Bialystock (Bill Larkin). He quickly encounters a self-proclaimed “loser” accountant, Leo Bloom (Matt Crowle), who points out that a Broadway flop could actually make more money than a hit. The audience follows the unlikely partners as they search for the worst script and actors in New York–all in the hope of putting on the worst play in history and cashing out on their way to Rio, Brazil. Crowle’s earnest version of Bloom reminds us that the nerdy accountant is full of guts. From his full-body comedy, to his show-stopping tap routine, you could physically feel the audience rooting for Bloom. Although Crowle personified the lovable underdog, Larkin’s performance missed a few punch lines. Amidst the chaos of the duo’s very funny debauchery, there were some moments when Larkin’s acting and yes-man character seemed forced.
The standout performances are not few in this cast; interactions between the ‘worst director’ in Manhattan, Robert Debris (Jason Richards), and his common-law partner, Carmen Ghia (Sawyer Smith) were hilarious. Their comedic timing was impeccable, while Richard’s unapologetically gay portrayal of Hitler during ‘Springtime for Hitler’ was aptly played, reminding the audience that Hitler ‘didn’t need help’ to look bad. Let’s not forget the ensemble, which played a critical role in transforming this small stage into Mel Brooks’ bold world of musical comedy. It’s refreshing to look over an ensemble and see a fully embodied cast of characters.
Although the set design and structure was underwhelming, Francis Maggio’s costume design more than made up for the loss in mystique from the scenery. With stellar choreography, this whirlwind adventure left everyone raving on the way out of the theater. Overall, for the number of swastikas and over-sexed old ladies, Stearns pulled off a show that didn’t insult the audience and ensured that you’d love just about every moment.
The Producers is at the Mercury Theatre Wednesdays through Saturdays with shows at 8pm plus 3pm matinees on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays. The final performance is June 26. Tickets range from $30-$65.