Wednesday, Jan 22 2014 11:35 AM

Review: 'Producers' a campy, entertaining romp

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    By Photo courtesy of Peter Beckman

    Swedish bombshell Ulla Swanson (Bethany Rowlee) auditions for producers Max Bialystock (Bob Anderson) and Leo Bloom (Zachary Gonzalez) in "The Producers," playing now at Stars.

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    By Photo courtesy of Peter Beckman

    Former Nazi pigeon fancier Franz Liebkind (Shay Burke, center) makes Leo Bloom (Zachary Gonzalez, left) and Max Bialystock (Bob Anderson) dance to Hitler’s favorite song in “The Producers.”

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BY CAMILLE GAVIN Contributing writer

Stars' production of "The Producers" opens with a bang and continues to happily explode all the way to the final curtain.

I saw last Sunday's performance and thoroughly enjoyed the exaggerated vaudeville-style humor and the lavish, perfectly executed production numbers -- Ziegfeld and Busby Berkeley couldn't have done them any better.

Related Info

'The Producers'

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday

Where: Stars Restaurant Theatre, 1931 Chester Ave.

Admission: $54-$59 dinner/show; $38 show only; students dinner/show $39; show only $23

Information: 325-6100

One of the best things the dinner theater's show has going for it is the chemistry between Bob Anderson and Zachary Gonzalez. Each is a perfect foil for the other. What's more, these men can sing.

All of the song-and-dance numbers are exceptional, but two that stood out for me were the tap-dancing female Nazi stormtroopers and the parade of "little old ladies" stamping their metal walkers in time to the music.

It should be noted that star-struck little old ladies, with Virginia Lenneman at the helm, provide the money for "Springtime for Hitler," the show within a show.

A word of caution for those who may have seen Mel Brooks' original 1968 movie, also called "The Producers" (which I thought was dreadful). Except for the basic storyline, this updated 2005 musical version, which Brooks also wrote, has little in common with the film.

Most of all, the musical is hilarious; there are no sad scenes, no pathos. As the show progressed I occasionally looked around at see the audience's reaction -- it was a full house -- and there were smiles on every face.

Who would have thought that a scam engineered by a down-on-his-luck Broadway producer named Max Bialystock (Bob Anderson) and a neurotic accountant, Leopold Bloom (Zachary Gonzalez), could be so entertaining?

The story concerns the pair's scheme to produce a flop, and then on opening night take the investors' money and head for South America.

One of the best things the dinner theater's show has going for it is the chemistry between Anderson and Gonzalez. Each is a perfect foil for the other. What's more, these men can sing. Not only do they sound good, you can understand every word they're singing.

"The Producers" insults just about everyone and everything -- it's set in the 1950s when nobody ever heard of being politically correct. The odd thing is that it's done in a way that's not offensive -- at least it wasn't to me.

It's filled with stereotypes, especially super-effeminate gay men -- a swishy Kyle Gaines as Carmen Ghia is positively elfin as he flutters about in black tights. And Kevin McDonald, who first enters the stage wearing a formal gown, does a turnabout and ends up giving an over-the-top imitation of Adolf Hitler, mustache and all.

Bethany Rowlee is perfect as the sexy Swedish secretary, a blonde temptress who tells it like it is with "'When You've Got It, Flaunt It."

Shay Brandon Burke does a comic portrayal, complete with goose-stepping, of a penniless former German soldier who is the author of "Springtime for Hitler," which Max and Leo consider the worst script they've ever read.

Director Sheryl Cleveland has chosen her cast well and produced a well-paced show that ran nearly three hours by the clock but seemed much shorter.

Among the strengths of the show are the choreography by Marnie Forzetting, Brent Rochon and Terri Cline; a seven-piece orchestra led by Brock Christian; Char Gaines' vocal direction; gorgeous costumes and headpieces courtesy of Kathy Lowry; and distinctive lighting design by Gabriel Urena.

"The Producers" continues at Stars through Feb. 8.

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