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Friday, July 3, 2015

Olney's 'The Producers,' a super smash hit

Leo Bloom (Michael Di Liberto) with his Showgirls in Olney Theatre Center's production of THE PRODUCERS. (Photo: Stan Barouh)
The Olney Theatre Center has outdone itself with the most entertaining area performance in memory.

From the get-go, The Producers rockets off the stage and doesn't stop until the end. You say "Mel Brooks," and I say "hilarious!"

Stage and television star (The Wire) Michael Kostroff plays the main character, Max Bialystock (with the emphasis on "stock"), a producer who adopts an accountant (Leo Bloom played by Michael Di Liberto) to be his co-producer of the worst performance on Broadway so they can take advantage of "creative accounting" and rake in the bucks when the show quickly dies.

"A man can make a fortune with a flop," Max realizes.

Max and Leo set out to find the worst title (what could go right with Springtime for Hitler?), hire the worst director (Jason Graae as Roger de Bris), and the worst actors to join the terrible team. It becomes as garish and awful a show as the title suggests, but the costuming by Seth M. Gilbert is oh, la, la.

To secure "creative financing," Max calls upon his retinue of "little ole ladies" with deep pockets who still like to frolic, and, imagine...they look and dress alike. (In identical costumes and hair styles, they dance later on with their walkers which become props which become tap shoes.)
Michael Kostroff as Max Bialystock, Jessica Jaros as Ulla, and Michael Di Liberto as Leo Bloom in Olney Theatre Center's production of THE PRODUCERS. (Photo: Stan Barouh)

A blonde bombshell a la MM, "Ulla" (with a faithful rendition by Jessica Jaros), joins the duo to "help out," and add more hilarity.

I loved!  loved!  loved!  (and so did the audience) the fairy queen/king, Carmen Ghia (Robert Mintz) the director's assistant who flitted, who floated, and flew around the stage like Tinkerbelle in lilac.

With the exception of two off-key horns for a few seconds, the orchestra (under the direction of  Darius Smith with assistance from Christopher Youstra) seemed sharper and more polished than usual.

While it is true that you won't walk out humming or singing any of the songs, The Producers (introduced to Broadway in 2001) still holds the record for winning the most Tonys (12). (In another funny scene--heck, they all are--Max and his team stop and move in slow motion when the name "Tony" pops up.  "You say Tony?" Max whispers slowly.)

On opening night the actors skillfully handled some improv (the trip), which happened fast, but the audience quickly grabbed on, increasing the pleasure.

James Fouchard, scenic designer, must have gotten an early look at the new exhibition at the National Gallery of Art, Gustave Caillebotte:  The Painter's Eye anchored by Caillebotte's Paris Street, Rainy Day, for the likeness becomes The Producers' set anchor, too. 

Andrew F. Griffin's excellent lighting design works the entire night, from a single spotlight on a prisoner to lights changing the sky and the city scenes.

One word in the lights at the end made me wince, however: moron. Don't they know?

Others in the cast are Stephen F. Schmidt as Franz, and in the ensemble, Brandon Ambrosino, Kurt Boehm, Jennifer Cameron, Jennifer Cordiner, Gabriella DeLuca, Lance E. Hayes, John Jeffords, Amanda Kaplan, Ethan Kasnett, Emily Madden, Nurney, Natalie Perez-Duel, Derek John Tatum, and Vicky Winter.

This is a production I believe will earn Helen Hayes nominations, as in:

Outstanding Resident Musical

Outstanding Ensemble in a Musical

Outstanding Director of a Musical: Mark Waldrop

Outstanding Choreography in a Musical: Tara Jean Valley

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Musical: Michael Kostroff

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Musical: Jessica Jaros

Outstanding Supporting Actor: in a Musical:  Robert Mintz

What: The Producers, a new Mel Brooks Musical

Age recommendation: For 13 and up

When: Now through July 26, 2015 (look for an extension) at 8 p.m., Wednesdays through Saturdays, with weekend matinees at 2 p.m., and Wednesday matinees, July 15 and July 22, at 2 p.m.

Where: Olney Theatre Center, 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road, Olney, MD 20832

How much: Tickets start at $38, with discounts for military, groups, seniors, and students. 

Duration:  About 2.5 hours with one intermission.

Refreshments: Available for purchase and may be taken to seats.

Parking: Abundant, free, and on-site

For more information: 301-924-3400

For more reviews of The Producers and other plays, go to
DC Metro Theater Arts.

1 comment:

Responsible for Equality And Liberty said...

In the Washington DC suburb of Olney, Maryland, the Olney Theatre is holding a play which it describes as a "Hitler Musical," and which the Washington Post describes as a "Hitler musical caper." Respect for people of all races, religions, and identity groups is not only the right thing to do, but it is also good business for any company. As all sane people around the world know, Adolf Hitler is a symbol of racial supremacism, who was the architect of murdering 6 million Jews in the Holocaust, oppressing people of nationalities throughout Europe, and who remains an international symbol of hate and racism for people of all identity groups, as the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC clearly indicates.

In fact, here in Washington DC that U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum was attacked, and the Nazi terrorist James Von Brunn (inspired by Hitler) who committed this attack, also murdered African-American security guard Stephen Tyrone Johns of Maryland. Then Nazis threatened his Maryland church during his funeral.

In our defense of human rights, we regularly see Nazi white supremacist groups promoting racial hatred and violence, including a group of Nazis arrested for attacking African-American churches. We have also learned now that the Charleston, South Carolina terrorist Dylann Roof was also a member of a Nazi group, before he launched his racist terrorist attack on a South Carolina church, killing 9 African-American worshipers.

It is easier to make cheap jokes about Adolf Hitler when you don't see the faces of the victims of Nazi terrorism. It is easy to normalize and remove yourself from the shame of such racist symbols, when you close your ears and eyes, and say it is "all a joke." But when people are killed in Washington DC and Maryland right here in this community, it is nothing less than obscene.

As the pastor at his funeral stated, "Silence is unforgivable for those who call themselves children of God or even civilized." But here the Olney Theatre has just cheap jokes and Patricia tells us how funny it is. Shame on you, Patricia.