Opening Nights: The Producers

Village Theatre keeps a show everyone knows crispy.

By now, everyone's seen the two movies or the musical version of Mel Brooks' The Producers, so a revival requires some degree of derangement, especially for a small company staging one of its most expensive productions. Luckily, director Steve Tomkins has exactly that degree. He starts with the artistic delusions of would-be Broadway producers Max and Leo, then adds myriad other symptoms of mental dysfunction. Despite our familiarity with the show, he manages to endow it with a crispy freshness. Like droopy vegetables snapping to life in the fridge, Max Bialystock (short, boxy Richard Gray), nerdy protege Leo Bloom (precision instrument Brian Earp), and long-drink-of-platinum Ulla (bombshell Jessica Skerritt) are made fresh again.

As you know, accountant Leo realizes that a theater producer could make more profit from a flop than a hit. Money-mad Max identifies the world's worst script: Springtime for Hitler, penned by Führer-worshipping Franz Liebkind (David Anthony Lewis). This demands the world's worst director, Roger De Bris (Nick DeSantis), arrayed in a Chrysler Building tiara and near-blinding sparkles. (The amazing costumes are the William Ivey Long originals from Broadway, rented.) Meanwhile, neurotic Leo fondles his blue security blanket, even while falling for Ulla. In their number "That Face," his hysteria steals the scene from the vacuous starlet. When confronted, Earp thrusts his face forward like a shield while his callow body retreats. He also manages to do the conga with his eyebrows. But Max has more pressing amorous business, servicing his legion of blue-hair investors, here wonderfully directed to "sing" (warble) as if in the death throes of geriatric orgasm while doing vulgar ballet on their walkers.

Granted, the show-within-the-show can be weak ("The Führer's in a furor!") and garish. Costumes and design unite to fulfill Max's prescription that Springtime be "so crass and crude even Goebbels would have booed." Accordingly, Teutonic goddesses descend with broomstick hip-extenders laden with silver biersteins and coffeepots, their headdresses a parade of gigantic culinary monstrosities including pretzels and sausage. Here Julia B. Franz's set goes into psychedelic overload. Like The Producers as a whole, it's a decadent, greasy, over-the-top buffet with some insanely succulent bits.

 
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