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Friday, August 2, 2019

'Producers' deliver huge hit in Alexandria

Leo (Ryan Phillips) and Follies Girls (from left) Taegan Chirinos, Cheryl Bolt, Erin Pugh, Kathleen West, Shannon Robichaud, Colleen Kleveno) in Little Theatre of Alexandria's The Producers/photo by Matthew Randall

If any seats remain for The Producers by the time you read this, it will raise my eyebrows since words on the street travel faster than the digital or printed kind.

Take my words for it:  This is a sizzler of a comedy which will make you happy you came and enjoyed a good time at the theatre.
Leo (Ryan Phillips), left, and Max (Steve Cairns)  in Little Theatre of Alexandria's The Producers/photo by Matthew Randall

Just the name Mel Brooks (still kicking at age 93; he's Jewish - keep reading) is enough to drive me anywhere to whatever of his is on stage, and fortunately for us locals, that means the Little Theatre of Alexandria to see the show that was such a movie hit, Brooks turned it into a Broadway musical which ran six years and won 12 Tonys. (Now, that's a reversal of the process.)

From start to finish, it's full of action and laughs with Steve Cairns as Max Bialystock, the once famous Broadway producer, who convinces a naive accountant to join him and produce a terrible play so they can collect big losses from their big flop. (Be careful what you wish for.)

Ryan Phillips is the accountant, Leo Bloom (and he does) whose sophistication throughout the show increases to match his growing awareness of the theatre world and how it operates.
 (His education in theatre performance at George Mason University is quite evident.)

       "You've mistaken me for somebody 
           with a spine." 

"There's a lot more to me than me."

Enter the playwright, a German named Franz Liebkind (Chad Ramsey), appropriately clothed throughout the show in lederhosen and wearing a mad Hitler helmet and a black beard, to take over and star in his masterpiece, Springtime for Hitler.

What's a play without sex? Not a fun play. Here comes the girly, flirty Ulla (Sirena Dib) who hypnotizes Leo and weaves her "magic."

And not to forget the director of the "loser of a play," Roger (Brian Lyons-Burke), always assisted by his able fairy, Carmen Ghia (Timothy R. Kingboth) who produce regales of laughter and whose sparkling diamond lapels can be seen from the rear of the theatre.

Costumers Jean Schlicting and Kit Sibley, assisted by wardrobe coordinator Robin Worthington, had their hands full, fashioning outfits for 21 cast members whose female ensemble wear sexy scanty designs as members of a chorus line before they are clad as little old ladies in flowered dresses (just below the knees, please) with white collars, gloves, hats, and, natch, pearls. 

The ladies' walkers become dance partners, and sounds emanate from the taps of their shoes clicking on the floors. (Ditto the accountants in these two memorable scenes. Stefan Sittig, choreographer, and Alan Wray, sound designer, exceed expectations.)

In addition to the heavyweights, the ensemble are the stars who carry the show and work to make it the "worst show" with the "worst directors and worst actors" (say, what?) because a flop which is not a flop but flips is a flop of a plan. (Huh?  You have to be there.) 

Dan Remmers has designed almost minimalist sets to avoid interference with the dialogue, and that's a good thing. 

Conductor Colin Taylor leads an orchestra of 22 members critical to the show's success. They play "upstairs," mostly hidden from view.

In 2015 I saw The Producers at the Olney Theatre and was happy to see it starting up in Alexandria because the "second-time around" is just as good and merry. 

Attention:  PC Police: It is not. But, why can't we still have fun?  Is it such a dastard world that we can't get off and enjoy a good time?
"Stop the world!  I want to get on!"
To quote Director Kristina Friedgen: Let's "laugh at ourselves more and allow others to laugh with us," or as Max puts it to Leo: "Smile and the world smiles with you."

Now, that's entertainment!
Members of the ensemble act in several different roles.  They are Drake Leach, Cheryl Bolt, Taegan Chirinos, Brian Delp, Chad Friedman, Rachel Hogan, Colleen Kleveno, Derek Marsh, Anne McPherson, Erin Pugh, Mike Sarisky, Brandon Steele, and Kathleen West.

Also, Courtney M. Caliendo and Shannon Robichaud who are dance captains.

Other crew members are David Correia and Mary Beth Smith-Toomey, producers; Haley Dandreaux, assistant director; Steven McBride, vocal director; Rob Cork and Nick Friedlander, stage managers; Tom O'Reilly, set construction; De Nicholson-Lamb, set painting; Russell J. Wyland, set decoration; Kirsten Apker, properties; Ken and Patti Crowley, lighting; Larissa Norris, makeup; and Susan Boyd, hair and wig designs.

What: The Producers by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan
When: Now through August 17, 2019. Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 3 p.m.

Where: Little Theatre of Alexandria, 600 Wolfe Street, Alexandria, VA 22314

Tickets: $29 to $34

Rating: PG-13.
Language: "R" A few contemporary slang words are uttered infrequently. Adult themes.

Duration: Two hours with one 15-minute intermission

Public transportation: Check the Metro website which supplies information to LTA during Metro station improvements.

On the streets and in many garages nearby. If Capital One Bank at Wilkes and Washington streets is closed, the bank's lot is open to LTA patrons at no charge.

For more information: 703-683-0496

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