The Producers – Segal Theatre until July 10
By: Sharman Yarnell – mtltimes.ca
I went to bed Saturday night with visions of Nazis dancing in my head – thanks to Jonathan Patterson in the outrageous Yiddish production of The Producers at the Segal Theatre.
You have most probably seen the movie with Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick. (Or Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder.) Or if you are really lucky, the Broadway production with Lane and Broderick. Written by Mel Brooks, the show is irreverent, nonsensical, and takes the mickey out of Broadway producers and the Third Reich. (The American Spamalot, perhaps!).
The Segal show is exactly what it should be, silly, flippant, over-the-top hilarious, brassy, glitzy and colourful. Nothing is held back. It offends everyone in the best of ways –
Max and Leo, two Broadway producers, scheme to become millionaires by putting on the worst flop Broadway has ever seen. Leo is asked to adapt the account books in their favour. And both go on a search for a lousy script. That leads them to Springtime For Hitler: A Gay Romp With Eva and Adolf at Berchtesgaden, written by Nazi sympathizer Franz Liebkind (Elan Kunin). The result is one heck of a wild romp through the brilliant mind of Mel Brooks.
Patterson almost steals the show. Oh hell…he does steal the show! And rightly so. He is absolutely delicious as drag queen, director, Roger de Bris. And as Hitler…he’s a show stopper. There never was a Hitler so gay!
Alisha Ruiss as Ulla is another stand out. What a beautiful voice…and beautiful everything else, if you get my gist. Ruiss is no stranger to Montreal musicals, with a voice that is an absolute gift from heaven.
Sam Stein as Max Bialystock, and Mikey Samra as Leo Bloom, bounce off each other beautifully!
Ryan Kligman who, as Carmen Ghia and De Bris’ side kick, is terrific to watch.
Elan Kunin plays the boisterous Bavarian, Liebkind, full force – such dare to do. (You wait with great anticipation for him and Patterson to reappear on stage!)
This is truly a wonderful ensemble piece of work – everyone seems to be thoroughly enjoying themselves on stage and they project that joy loudly and clearly to the audience. The direction by Anisa Cameron is sharp and focused. The sets (Jeremy Gordaneer) and costumes (Louise Bourret) are colourful and depicting the era bang on.
Over the years there have been attempts to ban this show from being presented. It should be remembered that it was written by a Jew who also served in World War ll, and that the Segal is a Jewish centre, its board run by members of the Jewish community.
In the documentary Mel Brooks: Make a Noise, Susan Stroman recalls a heart-warming exchange backstage at The Producers between Brooks and his grandson.
“Is Hitler a good guy or a bad guy?” the boy asked.
When his grandfather told him Hitler was a bad guy, the grandson seemed taken back. “Then why did Hitler make me laugh?”
“Hitler didn’t make you laugh,” said Brooks. “I made you laugh.”
Indeed you did, Mr. Brooks! There was nothing funny about Hitler but you sure brought him down to another level, I’m not sure he would appreciate, and that’s fine with me. “I have always been a huge admirer of my own work. I’m one of the funniest and most entertaining writers I know.” (Brooks)
The Producers is a co-production of the Cote Saint-Luc Dramatic Society and the Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre. This is the Yiddish premiere of the show. Don’t let the fact that much of the show is in Yiddish hold you back – there are sub-titles, but I rarely looked at them. This is a MUST SEE show!
On at the Segal Theatre from June 19 to July 10 –
For more information: http://www.segalcentre.org/
Box Office: 514-739-7944