Review “The Producers” (Music Theater Works): Absurdly Fun!

Monday, August 14, 2023 Permalink 0

Music Theater Works presents THE PRODUCERS A Mel Brooks Musical.

The Legendary Mel Brooks wrote and directed the 1967 cult classic movie “The Producers.” He later turned the movie into a staged musical (aided by Thomas Meehan) and that musical into another movie. Brooks pens the tale of an aging producer and his accountant debuting a musical designed to fail. The scam would allow the duo to pocket investor money when a show closes early. The plan is to present a Nazis’ tribute called “Springtime for Hitler.” The big wrinkle in their diabolical scheme is an audience embracing the tasteless absurdity.

Although Brooks’ plot is still entertainingly preposterous, some of the jokes feel tired. The schtick about Max (played by Thomas M. Shea) sleeping with old ladies for money and later hitting on a young, aspiring actress (played by Kelsey MacDonald) might have been hilarious fifty years ago but seem dated now. In particular, Act 1 is riddled with these ongoing gags. Despite these antiquated caricatures, there are plenty of colorful moments in Act 1. Steve McDonagh (Roger) and Eustace J. Williams (Carmen) lead their design team in a deliciously-over-the-top “Keep It Gay”. A vivacious MacDonald captivates Shea, David Geinosky (Leo) and the entire audience with “When You Got It, Flaunt It”. And Choreographer Darryl K. Clark dazzles utilizing walkers and his old lady dancing chorus. It’s both funny and marveling!

Much like the irony of Brooks’ original concept, Act 2 and especially the musical-within-the-musical is terrific. Director L. Walter Stearns stages “Springtime for Hitler” as THE showcase moment. Costume Designer Rachel M. Sypniewski adds to the lunacy with a WWII German-inspired fashion show. As the focal point, McDonagh plays Hitler. He is hysterical! He channels his inner David Sedaris to deliver a sharp and witty monologue.         

Stearns paces this show tight. His scenes transition seamlessly by staging action in front of the curtain as sets and costumes change behind the curtain. The huge and talented ensemble energetically morph into a variety of characters… theatre goers, accountants, little old ladies, pretzels, prisoners and even stormtroopers.

THE PRODUCERS is a whole lot of  fun…especially Act 2!

Running Time: Two hours and forty minutes includes an intermission

At North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie, 9501 Skokie Blvd

Book by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan

Music and lyrics by Mel Brooks

Directed by L. Walter Stearns

Choreographed by Darryl K. Clark

Music Direction by Eugene Dizon

Performances are:

Wednesdays at 1pm   

Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm

Sundays at 2pm

Thru August 20th

For more information or tickets

Production photos by Brett Beiner photography

For more Chicago theatre information and reviews, please visit Theatre in Chicago

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