There’s a hoard of little old ladies prancing around onstage. Holding onto their shiny, silver walkers they kick, tap and boogie to the music before slowing down to catch their breaths. All the while they’re waving bulging checks in Max Bialystock’s face. Gracious symbols of the past and full of promises for a bright fine arts future, they meander offstage rubbing their old bones and dreaming of their next romantic encounter with Broadway’s most infamous producer.
Although Denton Community Theatre’s production of The Producers, directed by Bill Kirkley and Aileene Stark, doesn't start out as spryly as those septua- and octagenerians, it eventually proves to be a diamond in the rough.
The Producers, adapted by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan from Brooks' original 1968 film, tells the story of Max Bialystock, a washed-up Broadway producer who sleeps with elderly women in exchange for monetary investments. When Max meets an uptight accountant named Leo Bloom, the two embark on a wild adventure in hopes of striking it rich with a major theatrical flop. But when the show proves to be a satirical sensation instead of the ultimate failure, the business partners experience more than they bargained for. So much for breaking a leg.
The beginning of The Producers is rather slow. The ensemble’s rendition of "It’s Opening Night" drags on without much sync or excitement. The actors look stiff and uncomfortable performing as a group onstage. Audience members might lose concentration after the first few moments of the song.
But after the first few scenes, the show picks up, thanks to a fantastic cast.
Sean Frith (as Max) and Tyler Lohr (as Leo) feed off one another’s comic timing nicely; their chemistry is comparable to the Odd Couple's Felix and Oscar as they bicker, fight and even roll around on the floor. Lohr’s Leo is soft and lovable. He knows how to use his body to portray an uptight, miserable and mousy man, and shakes violently when he’s unable to relax without his childhood blanket in hand.
Mandy Rausch, as Ulla, who gets caught up in the scheme, is the adorable blonde bombshell next door. Her voice is strong, her facial expressions delightful and the overdone Swedish accent is consistent.
But two actors steal the show. Ted Minette’s performance as Nazi playwright Franz Liebkind will have you laughing for days. His outlandish German accent and his larger-than-life energy are refreshing and fun, and his natural ability to make light of a heavy situation is eye-catching.
Tyler Donahue’s turn as cross-dressing director Roger DeBris is the sparkle of all sparkles. Not only does he look fantastic and toned in his sequin evening gown, but his energy and effete mannerisms are fabulous.
The set design, by Bill Kirkley, seems plain and flat at first. But it reveals itself to be far more complex and detailed as the scenes change, done effectively by using a turntable.
Through Nazis and crooks and "keeping it gay," DCT's The Producers shouts out "we can do it," and then lives up to that promise.