I hadn’t realized that The Producers wasn’t a touring production until Starlight President and Executive Producer Denton Yockey shared as much prior-to the show’s opening night curtain. I guess I should have noticed that the Preview performance Monday night was a giveaway or the fact that I had read about rehearsals taking place here in town for a couple of weeks now.
Regardless, as it proved last season with Anything Goes, the Starlight production staff can put on a heck of a show as, pardon the pun here, producers with no national touring company thank you very much. If anything they are better off as I ended up finding The Producers to be the most enjoyable production at the theater so far this summer season.
The Producers for the uninitiated is the Mel Brooks’ musical that walked away with a record 12 Tony awards in 2001. In an odd way it was sourced originally from a black comedy film that Brooks also wrote and directed in 1968. Though the musical features quite a few character changes and, being a musical, has an overall more upbeat tone. The Broadway success would then become the 2005 musical film staring Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick in the same rolls they originated on Broadway, Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom. The Starlight production has scored a solid coup by landing Broadway players from that-same production Brad Oscar as Bialystock and Roger Bart as Bloom. Both of whom Kansas City theater patrons may recognize from that other Mel Brooks’ Musical Young Frankenstein as both were here with the touring company that played The Musical Hall back in February earlier this year.
I’ll be quick and to the point. The Producers is hilarious. It is after all from the mind of Mel Brooks. Thus it’s filled with blue humor that isn’t the most family friendly. Starlight has gone out of their way warning about its content given that the rest of their season has been at the furthest a pretty safe PG-13 (Dreamgirls) if not G rated (Little House on the Prairie, Beauty and the Beast) affair so far. They even toned down a small bit of the language in the second number “The King of Old Broadway” dropping that dirtiest of four letter words and replacing it with a Yiddish term meaning the same thing.
Roger Bart and Brad Oscar seem to get an even split of moments to shine. Though I have to tip my hat to Bart in particular. He has a great sense of comedic timing and I like the way he subtly sprinkles in winks and nods to the audience with little effort. He is so comfortable in his role; he is a joy to watch. He really shined musically with “I Wanna Be a Producer”. Oscar gets his best in Act II with “Betrayed” where he gets a chance to seemingly cover a quick second of each performance, character, and bit in the show up to that point.
Bart and Oscar are also backed by some very solid performances from Bethany Moore as Ulla, Vince Leseney as neo-Nazi playwright Franz Liebkind, Kilty Reidy as Roger De Bris and Dan O’Connor in the role that Bart originated on Broadway, and later in the film as Carmen Ghia. O’Connor’s portrayal of the role is especially hilarious with the character’s flamboyant style and unique clapping and door greeting.
The sets were equally impressive especially those for the would be failure musical flop of Spring Time for Hitler. Unlike Starlight’s last production Beauty and the Beast the stage seems more opened up and not nearly as cramped giving the sets a chance to fill the stage and limiting sight lines in the venue.
In terms of pure entertainment The Producers is easily the best Starlight has had to offer this season. A great cast backed by some solid production work come together to create a fun and funny production.
I give The Producers 4.5 “Neo-Nazi Pigeons” out of 5
by John Coovert