Uptown Players latest show, The Producers, is so camp, it practically redefines camp. It would make you shudder, if its excess didn’t make you so helpless with laughter. “Over the top” doesn’t begin to describe it. Based on Mel Brooks’ satirical film from the 1960’s, The Producers isn’t just campy in the prissy, gay way (though there’s plenty of that) cliché’s stereotypes, and arch, operatically indulgent performance abounds, and it’s sheer bliss. Ironically, the show surrenders so utterly to Brooks’ ingenious premise (two down-and-out guys discover a Broadway flop can make them rich) that the horrendously tasteless result, i.e. Springtime for Hitler, is comedy magic. You haven’t lived till you’ve seen “Adolph” (Brad Jackson) prancing around in jack boots, or Franz Liebkind (Tony Martin) crooning with his chorus of carrier pigeons. Lederhosen sales may never be the same.
Max Bialystock (B.J. Cleveland) former “King of Broadway” is bemoaning his latest disaster when accountant Leo Bloom (Brian Hathaway) pays him a visit. While perusing the books, Bloom casually observes that if you sold too many tickets, an unsuccessful show could net you a fortune. Bialystock immediately realizes the potential of Bloom’s epiphany, and convinces him to collaborate on just such a venture. What follows might be described as paean to the power of greed, except that Bloom and Bialystock have been so downtrodden and unlucky, they really just long for prosperity. The fact that they must resort to embezzlement is just a pesky detail. When Leo discovers the lengths they must go to, in realizing their “dream,” he’s appalled, but Max helps him soldier on, proclaiming, “I‘ll tell you when we‘re in too deep.” Courting the favors of the worst talent is no easy task, not to mention taking a loyalty oath with Nazi enthusiast (and composer) Franz Liebkind. There are some benefits to be had from complete lack of artistry, though, when they discover Ulla (Whitney Hennen) a beautiful blonde who’s broken English hasn’t kept her from casting-couch surfing. Hennen is adorable, witty, and inspired.
Director Michael Serrecchia has spawned a glorious musical from a show that (at the end of the day) is all about tone. The jokes come fast and snappy and no group is immune from being spoofed. Amidst all the jostling and joshing is a tribute to the friendship that culminates between and Max and Leo, which is surprisingly effective. Especially satisfying performances in this remarkably funny musical include : Tony Martin, Brad Jackson, Peter DiCesare (as Carmen Ghia!) Whitney Hennen, B.J. Cleveland, Brian Hathaway, and what has to be the most diligent, versatile, enthusiastic ensemble I have ever seen. Whether we’re watching a gaggle of dancing “grannies” wielding walkers or mountain folk or (yikes!) Storm Troopers, they manage these feats with gusto : Mikey Abrams, Michael Albee, Jonathan Bragg, Kellie Carroll, Caitlin Darby, Emily Ford, Ivan Jasso, Mary Jerome, Art Kedzierski, Kelly McCain, Thomas Renner, Calvin Roberts, Ashton McKay Shawver, Jennie Titiryn, Shannon Walsh and Lisa Ward.
Uptown Players proudly presents : The Producers running August 24 through September 15, 2012. Performances will take place at the Kalita Humphreys Theater, 3636 Turtle Creek Blvd at Blackburn, Dallas TX 75219. 214-219-2718. www.uptownplayers.org