“The Producers” is a show that has it all: A pair of charming schemers to carry the plot, a dizzy, sexy blonde in eight-inch heels, beautiful showgirls in skimpy costumes, great music, funny lines and goose-stepping Nazis. And you’re not going to find many musicals that can feature the Third Reich as a comedy.
But that’s the premise of “The Producers,” now on stage at 7:30 tonight through Friday and Aug. 10-14 at Empire Arts Center, presented by Crimson Creek Players.
Max Bialystock (Paul Vonasek), the former King of Broadway producers, teams with his anxiety-ridden accountant, Leo (Matt Berdahl), on what they believe is the perfect get-rich-quick scheme. They’ll raise $2 million to finance an intentionally terrible show, it will close after one night, and they’ll pocket all the money they didn’t spend.
As the show that can’t possibly succeed, they pick “Springtime for Hitler,” written by a former FOA ("Friend Of Adolph’s") (Daniel Dutot) who’s more than a little nutty and way too trigger happy.
Honestly, when you think about it, there’s a lot that could go wrong with “The Producers.” Nazis are not inherently funny. Not until they’re played by Dutot and Daniel Walstad as Roger DuBris, the worst director on Broadway, whose byword for the theater is, “Keep it sassy, keep it classy, keep it gay,” and who ends up playing Hitler in Max and Leo’s show.
Also, “The Producers” is a Mel Brooks show, the man who gave us “Blazing Saddles,” “Young Frankenstein” and “Robin Hood: Men in Tights.” We know going in that it’s going to be outrageous, so we just relax and go with the craziness, because — really, how could you not? — when Die Fuehrer in “Springtime for Hitler” is singing: “Heil myself, Heil to me, I’m the kraut who’s out to change our history."
Vonasek and Berdahl as Max and Leo are the perfect pair, both visually and musically. They can do physical comedy, they can do schtick and, boy, can they sing. This show is performed to canned music but there is no faulting any of the voices of this young cast. They sounded terrific.
Haley Ann Boyd was excellent as the Swedish bombshell Ulla and should get an acting award just for being able to walk in those 8-inch white platform heels she wore for much of the show. Her turn in “If You’ve Got It, Flaunt It,” inspires one of the best lines in the show, delivered after Max and Leo are on the couch, transfixed, as Ulla auditions for them.
“We may be sitting down,” Max says, “but we’re giving you a standing ovation!"
Walstad as DuBris and Justin Heim as his “common-law assistant” Carmen Ghia were wonderful as the show’s other comic duo. They played Flamboyant with a capital “F,” and everything about them, including their costumes, were delicious.
So, how does a show that makes fun of libidinous old ladies, saucy showgirls, gay people, one of history’s most odious villains and the culture of Broadway manage to keep from being offensive as hell?
It’s hard to be mad when you’re laughing really hard at a show that’s presented with so much joy and craziness. Go see it and you may, like me, find yourself humming “Springtime for Hitler” with a smile on your face.
If you go:
“The Producers,” a musical presented by Crimson Creek Players. is playing at 7:30 p.m. tonight through Saturday and 7:30 p.m. Aug. 10-14 at Empire Arts Center.
Tickets: Adults, $18; students, senior citizens and military, $15; available in advance at Chester Fritz Box Office; (701) 777-4090.
The cast features Matt Berdahl, Haley Anne Boyd, Daniel Dutot, Justin Heim, Paul Vonasek and Daniel Walstad. The ensemble includes Lori Boucher, Emily Burkland, Amy Driscoll, Tomas Grande, Michelle McCauley, Ken McGurran, Sue Moe, Cody Oss, Tyler Rood, Casey Smith, Daniel Wiebusch and Emily Wirkus. Katia Bryleva and Kathryne Kitchen are dancers; Jenny Morris and Amanda Zimmerman are showgirls. Chris Berg is director.
Rating: PG-13 for ribald humor, sensuality and some language.
Tobin is arts & entertainment reporter at the Grand Forks Herald, Grand Forks, N.D.