Theater Feature: THE PRODUCERS (Celebration Theatre in Los Angeles)

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by Frank Arthur on June 21, 2019

in Theater-Los Angeles


It’s always springtime for Mel Brooks, who really does write musicals the way they used to. Even before Young Frankenstein, his 2001 triumph The Producers (based on the sidesplitting 1968 film with Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder) reverts to the anything-for-a-laugh, neo-vaudevillian, politically incorrect musicals of its 1959 setting. Giving a new meaning to “putting on” a show, it flaunts an unrepentantly melodious score and stereotypes that offend for miles (especially gays and Germans).

Appropriately, this retro revel about fraudster producers who hit pay-dirt when they least want to pays fulsome tributes to Times Square and Tin Pan Alley and the dreamer-schemers behind a neo-Nazi, gay-as-a-goose pastiche. More appropriately, it belongs to Brooks, a natural-born musical-comedy showman who found a very different fame in Hollywood. Who else could contrast a cooing chorus of Nazi-loving pigeons with a “kick” line of geriatric grannies on walkers? Who else could turn the conquest of Europe into a Ziegfeld production number?

Now, the Celebration Theatre — following on the heels of its musical revival triumphs of Priscilla and Cabaret — opens an intimate version beginning June 28, and it promises to be a politically incorrect, painfully funny yuckfest. Directed by the wizard Michael Matthews, the story of a failing Broadway producer and a wannabe Broadway producer stars Richardson Jones as “Max Bialystock,” Chris Jewell Valentin as “Leo Bloom,” Michael A. Shepperd as “Roger De Bris,” Andrew Diego as “Carmen Ghia,” MaryAnn Welshans as “Ulla,” and John Colella as “Franz Liebkind.” The Ensemble includes Brittany Bentley, Evan Borboa, Jasmine Ejan, Michael J. Marchak, Stephen Markarian, Sarah Mullis and Angeline Mirenda.)

Make no mistake, this “past-due” musical really belongs to 1959. But laughter never dates. To embrace the producers’ venal values, count on getting 20 laughs for every dollar you hand the box office. With change.

photos by Matthew Brian Denman

The Producers
Celebration Theatre
Lex Theatre, 6760 Lexington Ave. in Hollywood
Fri, Sat, Mon at 8; Sun at 2
ends on August 12, 2019
for tickets, call 323.957.1884 or visit Celebration

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