NY Times Review: Get-Rich Scheme Goes Comically Awry in ‘The Producers’

 The cast of “The Producers” at the John W. Engeman Theater at Northport. CreditMichael DeCristofaro

A Max Bialystock who looks like Mel Brooks. A Leo Bloom who sings mellifluously and mewls comically. A curvy Ulla with a sweet smile and a mischievous twinkle. Confetti. What’s not to like about the bubbly, bodacious production of “The Producers” now at the John W. Engeman Theater at Northport?

Nothing, really, and there is a lot to enjoy. Stuart Zagnit, who plays Max, is not trying to imitate Mr. Brooks, the creator of the hit 2001 musical (with book-writing help from Thomas Meehan) and of the classic 1968 movie on which it is based. Mr. Brooks, who turns 89 on Sunday, has never played Max, but it’s easy to imagine him in the role of the crazy producer who concocts a scheme to make a fortune by mounting a surefire Broadway flop. Mr. Zagnit resembles Mr. Brooks physically and possesses the bounding energy that the master comic has often displayed. That energy is central to the character of Max, who is able to persuade a timid accountant to take risks, and to romance dozens of “little old ladies” in order to get their cash for his show. Mr. Zagnit’s singing voice is, additionally, much better than Mr. Brooks’s (which was absolutely fine for the humorous songs he delivered in movies like “High Anxiety” and “To Be or Not to Be”).

Photo

Joel Newsome as Leo Bloom, left, and Stuart Zagnit as Max Bialystock. CreditMichael DeCristofaro

Igor Goldin, the director, has captured the fizzy showbiz joy that permeates the musical, even when things go desperately wrong for Bialystock and Bloom, the mousy accountant who becomes an eager partner in crime. As Leo Bloom, Joel Newsome, who performed in the Broadway cast and was an understudy for the role of the nervous accountant, has the kind of chemistry with Zagnit that is needed to make this opposites-attract, best-buddies play work. He is especially funny when Leo brings out the remnant of his baby blanket that he uses for comfort, complete with baby whimpers. He makes a charming leader for a fantasy soft-shoe number performed with other accountants to the song “I Wanna Be a Producer.”

As in the other big production numbers, the chorus members perform exceptionally well. The mostly young men and women of the ensemble pass credibly — or at least amusingly — as gray-haired women using walkers in “Along Came Bialy,” one of Mr. Brooks’s many inspired cockamamie concepts. Though Antoinette DiPietropolo’s witty choreography follows the templates of the Tony Award-winning dances by Susan Stroman (who also won a second Tony for directing the Broadway show), she has done an excellent job bringing in her own touches. Kurt Alger’s costumes and wigs brighten the show, as do Daniel Willis’s set, Driscoll Otto’s lighting and all the other design elements. The music director James Olmstead and his band do well by the music.

Mr. Brooks is famous for sparing no group with often-stereotypical humor, and this show is no exception. Sometimes, he satirizes by-the-numbers staging, as when he includes a pair of nuns, a policeman, a soldier and other folks in a street scene in the beginning of the play. That is when Max, a seasoned producer who has fallen on hard times, learns that his latest production, “Funny Boy,” has crashed on its opening night. (The play is a musical version of “Hamlet,” an idea the creators of the current “Something Rotten!” are using.)

The failure of “Funny Boy” leads Bialystock to an epiphany after Bloom casually mentions that a producer could make money by raising extra funds, as long as the show flops and he doesn’t have to pay back his investors. Soon, Bialystock and Bloom start their quest to find the world’s worst play and worst director.

Along the way, they meet Ulla, a Swedish actress who auditions for them with her own song, “When You Got It, Flaunt It.” As Ulla, Gina Milo has got it, including the ability to make Ulla’s over-the-top allure into a spoof of the use of blondes as sex objects, at the same time that she is being a blond sex object. In a different scene, the addition of a short, stocky woman as a laughingstock among a bevy of willowy chorus girls seems meanspirited.

And then there are the gay jokes and the biggest joke of all: The selection of the musical “Springtime for Hitler” as a surefire bomb. These come off without a quibble. While John Plumpis is not quite vivid enough as Franz Liebkind, the pro-Nazi playwright, he is both jovial and deeply sincere. Likewise, Ian Knauer is a tad too reserved as Roger DeBris, the gown-wearing director Max pursues, but he is totally amiable, endearing and droll, especially when he steps in to portray dear old Adolf. It’s a delight to rediscover the many clever turns of this fabulous comedy.

BWW Reviews: The Engeman ‘Produces’ a Sensational PRODUCERS

BWW Reviews: The Engeman 'Produces' a Sensational PRODUCERSThe magic of Theatre (or even Art as a whole) – I believe – lies within its awe-inspiring ability to transcend expectation and disintegrate our preconceived emotional, physical, spiritual, and artistic notions. Theatre exposes us to countless worlds of boundless imagination: from the eccentric sensationalism of what happens “behind-the-scenes” (a la THE PRODUCERS) to the minimalist existentialism of a Beckettian vision (a la…well…most plays by Samuel Beckett). Regional Theatre’s role in all of this proves perhaps even more diverse, especially when theatre companies like the John W. Engeman Theater has the distinct way of bringing together people of all skill (and union) levels in a way that makes even me question whether or not Broadway is necessarily where the best theatre lies.In its opening weekend, I attended the Engeman’s production of Mel Brooks’ comic masterpiece THE PRODUCERS: led by a collection of Broadway vets whom were more than at home on the Northport, NY stage. This cast & crew brought bombastic vocals, pleasantly disjointed (y’know, in an organized chaos kind of way), out-of-this-world costumes (Don’t worry, there’s a dress made out of sausages…or dare I say…bratwurst. #SoyGerman), comedic timing that would put Abbott & Costello to shame, and sets made for a king: more specifically, the “King of Broadway.”BWW Reviews: The Engeman 'Produces' a Sensational PRODUCERS

For those unfamiliar with the show: “THE PRODUCERS tells the story of a down-on-his-luck Broadway producer, Max Bialystock, and a nerdy, young accountant, Leo Bloom, who concoct a scheme to raise thousands of dollars from backers and then put on a flop of a show. With all the money that will be left over, the pair will be rich! Only one thing goes wrong: the show is a gigantic hit! With a truly hysterical book co-written byMel Brooks and Thomas Meehan(ANNIE), and music & lyrics by Brooks, THE PRODUCERS skewers Broadway traditions and takes no prisoners as it proudly proclaims itself an ‘equal opportunity offender’!”

I want to express the deepest gratitude to the director, Igor Goldin, for not directing his actors into a corner with this show. Each and every person onstage had a story to tell, and not just some façade to put on: a worry I typically have when viewing a comedic musical. Even each member of the ensemble had fantastic individuality and characterization that it makes one wonder whether an ensemble needs to necessarily “blend together” – which, in fact, is quite difficultnot to do when the show decks out its actors in outrageous costumes that make Betsy Johnson and Alexander McQueen look (I won’t be forgetting you, anytime soon, Bratwurst Dress…). Though, it’s the joint effort between the lead players and supporting players that create magic on that stage, and this cast did just that.

BWW Reviews: The Engeman 'Produces' a Sensational PRODUCERS

Stuart Zagnit (NEWSIES, HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS, SEUSSICAL, THE WILD PARTY) took a naturalistic approach to the brash Max Bialystock. Of course, elements of his choices were outrageous as to go along with the outrageous dialogue, but besides that, Zagnit’s performance gives an understatedly grandiose performance. Meanwhile, Joel Newsome (THE PRODUCERS, 42ND STREET) came in as a perfect foil for Zagnit: anxious, inexperienced, wide-eyed, the works. Newsome was quite at home in the role of Leo Bloom, since he just happened to understudy the role on Broadway, not too long ago. Though I thoroughly appreciated Mr. Newsome’s immature physical choices and pleasantly irritating moments of vocal trill, I felt that the performance lacked the adolescent-esque ambition that Bloom should be feeling in several key moments in the show, rather than moments of childlike frustration and dismissal.

BWW Reviews: The Engeman 'Produces' a Sensational PRODUCERS

The moments I felt Newsome was most appropriately wide-eyed were those in the presence of Gina Milo‘s (LES MISERABLES) Ulla: the Swedish goddess who arrives in the midst of a debate between the two leading men, in search of an audition (affectionately pronounced ow-diss-ee-oon). Milo arrived on that stage with the comedic presence in the same vein as Lucille Ball or evenSofia Vergara: unknowingly nuanced and subjectively (maybe objectively?) batsh*t weird. These three actors held the near-perfect comedic rhythm of this show in the palm of their hands, which they just so happened to have us eating out of, by the end of the show.

BWW Reviews: The Engeman 'Produces' a Sensational PRODUCERS

Other brilliant performances of (much deserved) note derive from the show-stealing duo of Ian Knauer (MAMMA MIA!, STATE FAIR, BY JEEVES) as Roger Debris, the infamous flamboyant “Worst Director in the World,” and Christopher Sloan (ALL SHOOK UP, FRIENDS AND RELATIONS, CABARET) as Carmen Ghia, the snippy, shady, and black-clad assistant to the director (So, would that make him the “Worst Assistant in the World” or…?). Between Knauers eccentric outbursts when inspiration struck his character, and the hilariously drawn-out, piercing stares of Sloan’s, there was no way to dismiss the amount this dynamic duo (corny phrase, I know) brought to the “producers'” table.


THE PRODUCERS will play the following performance schedule: Thursdays at 8:00pm, Fridays at 8:00pm, Saturdays at 3:00pm and 8:00pm, and Sundays at 2:00. Some Wednesday and Sunday evenings are available. Tickets are $69 and may be purchasd by calling (631) 261-2900, going online at EngemanTheater.com, or by visiting the Engeman Theater Box Office at 250 Main Stree, Northport, NY. Visa, Mastercard, Discover, andAmerican Express accepted.

THE PRODUCERS is produced by Richard T. Dolce, the Engeman Theater’s Producing Artistic Director. It is directed by Igor Goldin, with Choreography by Antoinette DiPietropolo, and Musical Direction by James Olmstead. The Design Team is Daniel Willis (Scenic Design), Kurt Alger (Wig & Costume Design), Driscoll Otto (Lighting Design), Laura Shubert (Sound Design), Bryan Prywes (Props Design), Wojcik/Seay Casting, LLC (Casting Director), and Trey Compton (Assistant Director).

The cast of THE PRODUCERS features: Stuart Zagnit, Joel Newsome, Gina Milo, John Plumpis, Ian Knauer,Christopher Sloan, Pim Van Amerongen, Emily Blake Anderson, Abby Bartish, Molly Jean Blodgett, Mary Callahan, Michael J. Farina, Carl DeForest Hendin, Jeffrey Johnson II, Larry A. Lozier Jr., Suzanne Mason, Laura Otremba, Caleb Schaaf, Erica Wilpon.

NEWSDAY Review: ‘The Producers’ at Engeman review

Updated June 4, 2015 6:22 PM
By STEVE PARKS steve.parks@newsday.com

Two priceless scenes from Mel Brooks’ 1968 movie are missing from “The Producers” Broadway juggernaut. One is Gene Wilder’s manic “25,000 percent!” — the other, Zero Mostel’s attempted bribe of a critic. The latter relates to people who do what I do, while the former relates to accountants who do your taxes. OK, so we’re not candidates for prom king or queen. “The Producers,” in its unapologetically stereotypical way, nails any and all of us — Jews, goys, gays, straights, blacks, blondes, ladies of a certain age, Nazis. You can hardly imagine a more politically (and inclusively) incorrect comedy.

If you get past all that, you’re in for a musical treat in Engeman Theater’s season finale.
“The Producers,” which set a record for Tony Awards (12) in 2001, should no longer require a warning label for people who’d be appalled by mining the Holocaust for humor, though we respect those for whom that remains too much.

Theater reviews
It’s a by-now-familiar tale, probably attempted for real on Broadway: Make a killing out of a show that dies overnight. The trick is to sell 100 (or 25,000) percent in potential profit to each of 1,000 or more gullible investors. In “The Producers,” the scheme comes about when Leo Bloom, a meek accountant, examines the books after a Broadway producer’s latest flop: Max slightly overcharged his investors. What if he collected $2 million for a show that closed at intermission? Inspired by Leo, Max solicits little old ladies of means, led by spry, well-short-of-senior-citizenship Suzanne Mason.

Stuart Zagnit, who bears a resemblance to a younger Mel Brooks (88), revels in his character’s moral unambiguity. (“Imagine you’re a dishonest man,” Bloom suggests. “Imagine away,” Max responds.) Joel Newsome, who appeared in the Broadway production and understudied the Leo Bloom role, is at once mousy and Machiavellian as the little accountant who could, with a criminal co-conspirator, at last think big. Into their sham they enlist va-zoom Ulla (a well-pitched Gina Milo), Franz (antic John Plumpis), author of “Springtime for Hitler” and Roger De Bris (Ian Knauer), the gayest director in town and his significant assistant Carmen Ghia (Christopher Sloan), both playing it gayer than springtime, realized in gloriously kitsch costumes (Kurt Alger) and set (Daniel Willis).

As directed by Igor Goldin and choreographed by Antoinette DiPietropolo to James Olmstead’s orchestra, “The Producers” goes all out to stretch our PC boundaries. As it should.

WHAT “The Producers”

WHEN | WHERE 8 p.m. Friday, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, through July 12, John W. Engeman Theater at Northport, 250 Main St.

Coming soon: Newsday’s Entertainment newsletter, for the latest on celebs, TV, more.

TICKETS $69; 631-261-2900, engemantheater.com

Times Beacon Record Review: ‘The Producers’ hits the boards at Northport’s Engeman

Stuart Zagnit as Max Bialystock in a scene from ‘The Producers,’ Photo by Michael DeCristofaro

By Charles J. Morgan     

The musical “The Producers” opened at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport last week and did not disappoint. Adapted by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan from Brooks’ 1968 film of the same name, it tells the story of a down-on-his-luck Broadway producer, Max Bialystock.

Once nicknamed the “King of Broadway,” Bialystock has recently produced a series of turkeys (“…the critics left at intermission”); so he must produce a hit or go broke. His easily swayed, near psychotic auditor Leopold Bloom shows him how to make millions by producing a flop! Both rummage through a pile of manuscripts until they find one entitled “Springtime for Hitler,” extolling the virtues of the Nazi party. Putting this one on had to be a failure! Off they go in search of the author and to find an “angel.”

Stuart Zagnit and Joel Newsome played the hilarious plotters as Max and Leo, respectively. They were so contrasted as the Machiavellian hard-as-nails fixer to the trembling, quivering weaker partner who still carries a piece of his infant security blanket. Both have lively tenor voices — Zagnit the mighty organ,  Newsome the exquisite violin.

Gina Milo, as Ulla the voluptuary, had all the right (and left) moves, topping this panoply of pleasure with a powerful soprano. Her “If You Got It, Flaunt It” number expressed it all.

The two plotters find their author in Franz Liebkind played by John Plumpis — a wacko Nazi in Luftwaffe steel helmet, imitation jackboots and a stick — he is all over the boards intoning a somewhat mangled German accent but coming on quite strong in Act II’s “Der Guten Tag Hop-Clop” and in Act II’s “Haben Sie  Gehört Das Deutsche Band?”

The gay community is well represented with Roger DeBris, handled smoothly by Ian Knauer, and Carmen Ghia, played languidly by Christopher Sloan. Knauer is well over the two-yard mark, leading one to believe that height was a requisite. Why? Because the height of the lissome female ensemble only added to their beauty, referring to Emily Blake Anderson, Molly Jean Blodgett, Mary Callahan and Laura Otremba. A marvelous performance, especially those kicks.

Choreography was by the ubiquitous and deeply talented Antoniette DiPietropolo with direction by Igor Goldin. DiPietropolo had a massive job on her hands. The cast was large and the ensemble equally so. Yet, as usual, she brought out a clear terpsichorean reality, including one done in walkers. Goldin was similarly charged with clear individualization and interpretation of characters. He succeeded handily.

At this juncture your scribe must reveal his impressions of the show’s music. James Olmstead leads a six-piece outfit featuring the incomparable Joe Boardman on trumpet, the trombones of Brent Chiarello and Frank Hall, Russ Brown on bass, Mark Katz on reeds and Josh Endlich on percussion driving it along.

Boardman has a tone redolent of Charlie Shavers with a whiff of Dizzy Gillespie. The sound of gunshots in Act II was actually rimshots by Endlich. Talk about accurate cuing. In fact, after final curtain this group did a little jamming. Your scribe was loath to leave his seat so much was he enjoying a trip down 52nd Street in the late forties.

This was a beautifully mounted production — something the Engeman is quite good at.

The John W. Engeman Theater will present “The Producers” through July 12. Tickets are $69. For more information, please call the box office at 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

The Village Tattler Review: The Producers Packs House On Opening Night at The Engeman

By Claudia D. Wheeler, on June 5th, 2015

Joel Newsome & Stuart Zagnit as the producers. Photo by Michael DeCristofaro.

The Producers packed the house on opening night at The John W. Engeman Theater and is sure to continue its success through its run that ends on July 12, 2015. Where else can you be thoroughly entertained with the original and wacky humor of Mel Brooks, performed by an extraordinary cast with many Broadway credits, and not have to leave the North Shore of Long Island? The Producers is a wild, fun, entertaining night at the theater, complete with hilarious accents and lots of show business jokes .

The original Broadway production opened at the St. James Theatre in 2001, starring Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, and won 12 Tony Awards.

Adapted by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan (Annie) from Brooks’ 1968 movie starring Gene Wilder, with lyrics written by Brooks and music composed by Brooks, The Producers tells the story of the “King of Old Broadway” producer, Max Bialystock, and his nerdy, compulsive accountant, Leo Bloom, who join together to raise thousands of dollars from backers (mostly little old ladies). The scheme is to put on a flop of a show. With all the money that will be left over, the pair expects to be rich. But something goes wrong—the show they produce,Springtime for Hitler, is a huge hit.

The laughs in The Producers are at everyone’s expense—Nazis, little old ladies, compulsive disorders, homosexuals, the prudish—there’s humor here directed at almost everyone. The show within the show is “guaranteed to offend everyone, of every race,” notes Max Bialystock played by Stuart Zagnit, whose credits include Broadway: Newsies, How The Grinch Stole Christmas, Seussical, The Wild Party, The People In The Picture, and Off-Broadway: Little Shop of Horrors, All In the Timing, Lucky Stiff, Kuni-Leml and The Grand Tour. The two schemers come up with a plan for success, which completely and wildly fails.

Director Igor Goldin who directed the amazing Engeman productions of Evita, The Music Man, and Twelve Angry Men, is joined by the equally talented choreographer Antoinette DiPietropolo (Engeman: A Christmas Story, Hairspray, and Nunsense). They bring The Producers to life along with Musical Director James Olmstead (recently musical director at Engeman for A Chorus Line andEvita).

The cast of The Producers is perfect. In addition to Zagnit who is magnificent as the King of Old Broadway and sets the mood in the opening number, there is Joel Newsome playing the accountant-turned-producer Leo Bloom. Newsome appeared in The Producers on Broadway and in its second national tour in the same role as Bloom. Other credits include 42nd Street on Broadway and the National Tour of Billy Elliot.

Gina Milo is back at the Engeman as the curvaceous Ulla from Sweden after notable roles as Mother in A Christmas Story, Muriel in Plaza Suite, and Penny inHairspray, among others. She is so funny as Ulla and lends her beautiful voice to many of this show’s musical numbers.

Stuart Zagnit, Gina Milo, Joel Newsome. Photo by Michael DeCristofaro.

John Plumpis plays the eccentric Nazi Franz Liebkind, who wrote the playSpringtime in Hitler. His German accent and dancing are memorable. His credits include National Tours: The Lion King, Laughter on the 23rd Floor, Barrymore starring Christopher Plummer and the 2011 film; NYC:  Playwrights Horizons, Roundabout, The Mint, company member TACT.

Also memorable are the enormously entertaining performances of Ian Knauer as Roger Debris and Christopher Sloan as Carmen Ghia. Credits include Broadway:Mamma Mia!, State Fair, By Jeeves (Rev. Pinker);  Off-Broadway: York Theatre, NYMF, NY City Opera, Carnegie Hall, six shows at Encores! National/International; Tours: The Wizard of Oz, Bugle Boy, Doctor Dolittle, Sunset Blvd., 42nd Street; and UK: Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (West End), The Sound of Music, Chicago, Steel Pier.

Sloan’s credits include NYC/Off-Broadway: All Shook UpFriends and RelationsJoy and Richard Rodgers’ Broadway; Regional: Cabaret starring Debbie Gibson,HairsprayHow to SucceedSpamalot and The Wizard of Oz; National Tours: Cabaret and The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber starring Petula Clark, and TV: The Knick, Guiding LightAs The World Turns and Night of Too Many Stars on Comedy Central

The cast also includes: PIM VAN AMERONGEN, EMILY BLAKE ANDERSON, ABBY BARTISH, MOLLY JEAN BLODGETT, MARY CALLAHAN, MICHAEL J. FARINA, CARL DEFOREST HENDIN, JEFFREY JOHNSON II, LARRY A. LOZIER Jr., SUZANNE MASON, LAURA OTREMBA, CALEB SCHAAF, ERICA WILPON.

Impressively funny (and equally offensive) numbers include “Der Gluten Tag Hop Clop,” “Keep it Gay,” “When You Got It, Flaunt It,” “Along Came Bialy (in Little Old Lady Land),” and “Where Did We Go Right?”

Kudos to the design team for an amazing set: DANIEL WILLIS (Scenic Design),KURT ALGER (Wig & Costume Design), DRISCOLL OTTO (Lighting Design),LAURA SHUBERT (Sound Design), BRYAN PRYWES (Props Design)WOJCIK/SEAY CASTING, LLC (Casting Director) and TREY COMPTON(Assistant Director).

The Producers runs through July 12, at The Engeman Theater located at 250 Main St., Northport. Tickets can be purchased at the theater’s box office, by calling (631) 261-2900 or by visiting www.engemantheater.com.

Performances are Thursdays at 8:00pm, Fridays at 8:00pm, Saturdays at 3:00pm and 8:00pm, and Sundays at 2:00. Some Wednesday and Sunday evenings are available. Tickets are $69.

The Long Islander Review: The Producers Demands A Standing Ovation

By Phil Caycedo

info@longislandergroup.com

Joel Newsome and Stuart Zagnit star as Leo Bloom and Max Bialystock in Engeman Theater’s “The Producers.” (Photo by Michael DeCristofaro)

JOEL NEWSOME AND STUART ZAGNIT STAR AS LEO BLOOM AND MAX BIALYSTOCK IN ENGEMAN THEATER’S “THE PRODUCERS.” (PHOTO BY MICHAEL DECRISTOFARO)

With a packed house on their feet as the curtain closed on the farewell number “Goodbye,” the resounding applause begged to stay for more. Having seen the original Broadway production of “The Producers,” a record-breaking 12-time Tony Award-winning smash hit, I knew the ride I was in for.

What I didn’t expect, as a first-time John W. Engeman Theater at Northport audience member, was the caliber of the cast and overall production to be on par with the likes of the Great White Way.

This classic Mel Brooks comedic romp is a musical adapted from the 1968 film of the same name. “The Producers” tells the story of an unlikely partnership between Max Bialystock, a schemer and down-on-his-luck Broadway producer, and Leo Bloom, a dreamer and a nerdy neurotic accountant, disenchanted with his job and station in life.

On a routine audit of Max’s books, it occurs to the pair that “under the right circumstances, a producer could actually make more money with a flop than he can with a hit.” Max proposes the ultimate scheme:

Step 1: Find the worst play ever written – “Springtime for Hitler”

Step 2: Hire the worst director in town

Step 3: Raise two million dollars.

Step 4: Hire the worst actors in New York and open on Broadway

Step 5: Close on Broadway, take our two million, and go to Rio.

Only one thing goes wrong: The show is a gigantic hit.

With a truly hilarious book co-written by Brooks and Thomas Meehan (“Annie”) and music and lyrics by Brooks, “The Producers” skewers Broadway tradition and takes no prisoners as it proudly proclaims itself an “equal opportunity offender.” Ian Knauer and Christopher Sloan are a hilarious duo as Roger DeBris and Carman Ghia. (Photo by Michael DeCristofaro)

IAN KNAUER AND CHRISTOPHER SLOAN ARE A HILARIOUS DUO AS ROGER DEBRIS AND CARMAN GHIA. (PHOTO BY MICHAEL DECRISTOFARO)

My hat goes off to the production team. I know firsthand how challenging it can be to adapt for the “small stage.” With limited space for such a large-scale production, Director Igor Goldin and Scenic Designer Daniel Willis pull off an exceptional flow to the show as the well-cast actors and seasoned dancers moved seamlessly through the vibrant, high-quality, multifunctional set pieces, accented with just the right amount of light. Choreographer Antoinette Dipietropolo impressively nailed signature numbers like “I Wanna Be A Producer” and “Along Came Bialy.” Rounding out the design team with distinctly detailed, fabulously eye-popping costumes is Kurt Alger who took the cake with “Springtime for Hitler.”

The principal roles are played by Broadway performer Stuart Zagnit as Max Bialystock and Joel Newsome as Leo Bloom – a role he played on the Broadway and the National tours. In roles originally played by Tony winners Nathan Lane and Mathew Broderick, Zagnit and Newsome are able to find a nice balance between the originals and their own interpretation of the characters. Their awkward chemistry and unlikely friendship ultimately ground the show, with great voices to boot.

Outstanding supporting roles took each scene to the next level as the crescendo of laughter continued to build through until the very end. Standout performances I must mention are: Engeman veteran Gina Milo, playing Ulla, a love interest for Bloom, was the epitome of a Swedish bombshell and can belt with the best of them. John Plumpis as Franz Liebkind brought the Nazi German flare the show could not have done without. And last but certainly not least, the hilarious show-stopping, far-from-ambiguously gay, duo of Roger DeBris played by Ian Knauer and Carman Ghia played by Christopher Sloan milked the laughter until the utter was bone dry. If there was ever going to be a spin off they would get it.

Congratulations to the cast and crew on producing a must see! A number of season ticket holders after the show said this is one of the best Engeman has ever done.

Catch “The Producers” through July 12. The theater is located at 250 Main St. in Northport. Tickets are $69 and can be purchased at engemantheater.com.

The Northport Daily News: “The Producers” triumphs at the Engeman Theater: Prepare for an uproariously good time

‘The Producers’– which might very well be the most over-the-top and lavish musical ever mounted at the John W. Engeman Theater– is bowling audiences over big time.   Laughter and applause prevailed throughout the performance of the zany comedy that I attended, with the actors receiving a resounding and well-deserved standing ovation.

Based on the book by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan, with music and lyrics by Mr. Brooks, the plot follows the wacky antics of Max Bialystock, a floundering former King of Broadway and his meek accountant, Leo Bloom.

As the show opens, Max has missed the mark yet again. Critics have deemed his latest production, ‘Funny Boy,’ the worst show on the Great White Way. Hamlet, perhaps Shakespeare’s most melancholy and conflicted character, would seem a most unlikely candidate for a comedic musical. Oy vey!

When Leo arrives, and is asked by Max to do some ‘creative’ accounting, the nerdish accountant examines the books, and spouts an epiphany that’s a game-changer.  It seems that under the right circumstances, a producer stands to make more money with a flop than with a hit. Bells go off in Max’s head: all he has to do is orchestrate the right combination of the worst of all theatrical worlds in terms of a play, director and cast so the show closes immediately and he and Leo can each abscond to Rio with a million dollar profit. But fearful Leo, who has been brow-beaten by his boss and has been coloring within the lines for so long, is having none of it.

For me, the show really heats up when Leo returns to the offices of Whitehall and Marks to toil beneath the shadows of towering file cabinets.  In the fantasy sequence, “I Wanna Be A Producer,” glamorous showgirls emerge from those file cabinets and Bloom dances his way into our hearts, singing about his secret desire to make it big on Broadway.

The odd couple of Max and Leo begin their collaboration, poring through piles of bad manuscripts. They find the musical that they are looking for in “Springtime for Hitler.” Written by neo-Nazi Franz Liebkind, who believes that history did Hitler wrong, the script is so crass, and offensive that Max doubts it could even make it to intermission. What Max and Leo have to endure to get Franz to sign a contract is hilarious. You could say that they had me at “Der Guten Tag Hop Clop.”  Franz (played by John Plumpis) is terrific.

Next the quest is on for the worst directorial team, whom they find in persnickety Roger Debris (Ian Knauer) and his ‘common-law’ assistant Carmen Ghia (Christopher Sloan), both of whom bring seasoned expertise to their performances and keep the audience in stitches.

The outlandishness reaches its pinnacle with the staging of ‘Springtime for Hitler,’ the riotous and absurd romp through Hitler’s Deutschland.  Kudos to Costume and Hair Designer Kurt Alger for intertwining both the glamorous and outrageous (consider a chorus girl wearing a full length sequined gown sporting a huge sausage on her head). Even now thoughts of that costume bring a smile to my face.

The polar opposites, Max (Stuart Zagnit) and Leo (Joel Newsome) are perfectly cast and play off each other beautifully and boy, can they dance and sing. Ulla, the blonde Swedish bombshell who whets both their appetites, is played by Gina Milo, whom many may remember from her roles in  Engeman’s “A Christmas Story” and “Plaza Suite.” She humorously shows off her considerable assets when she auditions for Max and Leo in  “When You Got It, Flaunt It.” She is absolutely superb.

The musical, which won a record-breaking 12 Tony Awards in 2001,  continues to disarm  audiences. According to Director Igor Goldin, once again at the helm of one of Engeman’s finest productions,  Mel Brooks has a gift for giving “us permission, as a culture, to enjoy, without guilt, irreverent and politically incorrect humor.”  The show, dubbed the ‘equal opportunity offender,’ pokes fun at all kinds of stereotypes, challenging “us to laugh at what is taboo.”

“Within the context of the show, in the darkness of theater, we gladly agree. It feels wonderfully mischievous,” said Mr. Goldin, noting that, at the same time, Brooks enlightens us by defusing stereotypes.

Laughter can be very healing and cathartic and “can make us into a better and more understanding race,” Mr. Goldin concludes.

Mr. Goldin also loves how the play is structured.

“You start with our two unlikely protagonists: anti-heroes. You invest time with them, start to find these two losers of life funny and lovable.  Then you follow them on a journey as they meet one hysterical character after another, each more hilarious and outlandish than the previous.”

Choreography by the very talented Antoinette DiPietropolo, and music direction by James Olmstead—two of my favorites, and Daniel Willis’ terrific set– complete the perfect theatrical experience.

When asked what he hopes that theatergoers will come away with after seeing ‘The Producers,’ Mr. Goldin had this to say: “Exhaustion from having laughed so much. Hearing an audience laugh is one of my favorite things on earth.”

Does the production of ‘Springtime for Hitler’ sink or swim? You’ll have to see the musical to find out.

‘The Producers’ runs through July 12 but don’t delay. This show might very well sell out. The Engeman Theater is located at 250 Main St., Northport Village. Tickets can be purchased at the theater’s box office, by calling (631) 261-2900 or by visiting www.engemantheater.com.

The Northport Daily News Review: ‘The Producers’ have arrived at the Engeman Theater: Be prepared for great entertainment!

In ‘The Producers,’ the former ‘King of Broadway’ Max Bialystock and his accountant Leo Bloom cook up a  get rich scheme of defrauding investors by coming up with a guaranteed of  flop of a show. But their best laid plans go horribly astray when ‘Springtime for Hitler’ unexpectedly wins over audiences big time.

‘The Producers,’ the Broadway blockbuster hit musical about a ‘show within a show’ opened at the John W. Engeman Theater this week and tickets are literally flying out of the box office and with good reason. The theater has pulled out all the stops in mounting the production which resonates with the off-beat humor of Mel Brooks. Director Igor Goldin was previously at the helm for outstanding Engeman productions including ‘Evita,’ ‘The Music Man,’ ‘Twelve Angry Men’ and ‘South Pacific.’   The very talented Antoinette DiPietropolo, who previously choreographed two of my all-time favorites, ‘Hairspray’ and ‘Nunsense’ will be working her magic. James Olmstead, who served as  musical director for ‘A Chorus Line,’  as well as  ‘Evita’ and ‘South Pacific’ will be doing what he loves and does best: directing the  band and playing the keyboard/piano.

The cast is also sensational. Stuart Zagnit, who plays Max Bialystock, boasts many Broadway credits, including “Newsies,” and is the veteran of many National Tours. He has appeared on television in 3D Rock and Law & Order.  Leo Bloom is played by Neil Newsome, who appeared in ‘The Producers’ on Broadway and in the musical’s second national tour. Many may remember the very versatile Gina Milo, who stars as the blonde bombshell Ulla, from her performances in “A Christmas Story” and “Plaza Suite.”

The Producers runs through July 12. The Engeman Theater is located at 250 Main St., Northport Village. Tickets can be purchased at the theater’s box office, by calling (631) 261-2900 or by visiting www.engemantheater.com.

Smithtown Matters Review: “The Producers”

SUNDAY, MAY 31, 2015 AT 6:52 PM

THEATER REVIEW – The Producers – Produced by: The John W. Engeman Theater – Reviewed by: Jeb Ladouceur

Stuart Zagnit, ‘Encore’ winner Gina Milo, and Joel Newsome – photo by Michael DeCristofaroAn inside joke is a gag whose humor is understandable primarily for members of anin group, that is, people who are part of a particular social set, profession, or other community of shared interest. In a sense, it’s an obscure witticism that is humorous mostly to those in the know about the circumstances behind it.

With that in mind, The Producers has to be considered one of the most daring, yet successful risks ever undertaken on the Broadway stage. The show succeeds (indeed excels!) because the magical Mel Brooks has made a slew of inside jokes very funny to any number of observers who never have, and never will, share the interests of those groups he addresses with his quips.

And there was another element of risk in the first staging of The Producers, it seems to me. Though well-received Broadway shows frequently are converted to motion pictures with a modicum of success, the reverse is seldom the case. The Great White Way is littered with torn-up scripts and discarded playbills that were inspired by triumphant movies…and consigned to the trash heap after opening night. Those involved in adapting The Producers for the stage had to be aware of the potential hazards involved in attempting to fill Hollywood’s big, glitzy shoes.

However, the genius of Mel Brooks was rewarded, as we all now know, when The Producers made history by winning a dozen Tony Awards, even surpassing the nearly four-decades-long record held then by Hello Dolly. That Carol Channing hit garnered eleven Tony nominations, winning ten. Furthermore The Producers demonstrated its staying power by running for more than (count ‘em) 2500 performances!

But how did Brooks manage to amuse so many different factions with material designed, it seems, to tickle the funny bones specifically of Gays, or Show Biz habitués, or even Nazi insiders? The answer, of course…he utilized the outrageous and the irreverent a la Imus, Stern, Limbaugh, Alan King et al. By so doing, Brooks appealed to our universal tendency to laugh at off-limits situations when they’re presented in the intimacy and privacy of the theater…scenarios that might not regale us in any other setting. Perhaps there should be a “No Prudes Allowed” sign over the Engeman door for the next six weeks.

Anyway…fasten your seat belts, folks…you’re off on a non-stop…rip-roaring ride at The Engeman Theater from now thru July 12. One caveat: find something else to entertain the 12-and-under crowd for the three hours you’ll be laughing yourself silly.

Your madcap driver on this careening theatrical roller coaster is Stuart Zagnit who plays the screwball ‘Max Bialystock’ (created on Broadway by Nathan Lane) and Joel Newsome is our zany tour guide ‘Leo Bloom’ (originated at the St. James Theater by Matthew Broderick). Both of the well-traveled leads at The Engeman take up where their megastar predecessors left off…with perfectly timed, comedic characterizations that are top-notch. And Gina Milo is a red-hot riot as the delectable ‘Ulla- – voluptuous ‘secretary-slash-receptionist’ (yeahsure!) for the whacky producer team.

Igor Goldin, who directed the Engeman’s Encore Award-winning Music Man in 2013, is at the helm for The Producers, and the cast couldn’t be in better hands. Goldin has his mile-a-minute machine perfectly tuned—it purrs like a kitten when appropriate, and roars like a lion when suitable.

Antoinette Dipietropolo’s choreography is predictably well-ordered and delightfully inventive, and the Musical Director, James Olmstead, with whom Dipietropolo frequently teams up, never fails to add his wealth of professionalism to any Richard Dolce produced show.

But this classic production is not dependent on elaborate Set, Lighting, Sound, Costumes, and the like, though they’re all superb in the ultra-lavish show. What really makes The Producers a slam-bang, cheeky, waggishly shocking hit is the assortment of inside jokes that Mel Brooks (the self-proclaimed ‘equal opportunity offender’) throws around like so many hand grenades…while taking absolutely no prisoners.

NY Theatre Guide Review: ‘The Producers’ at John W. Engeman Theater

Posted By: Kristen Weyer on: June 01, 2015
Stuart Zagnit and the company of The Producers. Photo by Michael DeCristofaro.

Stuart Zagnit and the company of The Producers. Photo by Michael DeCristofaro.

The Producers, this ribald comedy has been entertaining audiences of the stage and screen since 1968. Perhaps I ought to say, mature audiences, for this show certainly lives up to its claim of being an “equal opportunity offender.” No one, and nothing is safe from the satirical attack of these over-the-top stereotypical characters. Little old ladies, Hitler, sex, flamboyancy, compulsions, nothing is left unscathed. What is the result of such blatant stepping in social potholes? A hysterically funny, albeit slightly awkward, good time.

. . . a crazy, sidesplitting musical.

The John W. Engeman Theater has once again delivered a wonderful show. The spectacular band directed by James Olmstead, is bolstered with sound design by Laura Shubert. The incredible cast was given fantastic costumes by Kurt Alger, and great choreography by Antoinette DiPietropolo. All of this together with a superb set by Daniel Willis, and lighting design by Driscoll Otto has made The Producers a must see. The Producers was written by Mel Brooks and originally produced as a film starring Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder. Brooks, with Thomas Meehan, adapted the film for Broadway which opened in 2001 starring Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick (who also went on to star in the 2005 movie version).

Max Bialystock (Stuart Zagnit) is a down on his luck Broadway producer who is desperate for a hit. When mousey accountant Leo Bloom (Joel Newsome) arrives to do the books, he innocently surmises that one could make more money with a flop than with a hit. That’s all Max needs to hear, and soon the two have hatched a plan to produce the worst play they can find. It’s a plan that can’t possibly fail, could it? They find the worst play, the worst director and a terrible cast, it’s a sure fire flop, until it’s a hit!

Stuart Zagnit’s characterization of Max is marvelous. He embodies the desperate producer, delivering a blend of dishonesty and determination. His mannerisms and attitude combined with an excellent sense of comedic timing, make for an impressive performance. Joel Newsome is perfect as the nervous Leo. His hilarious portrayal of the character’s ticks cause pause for laughter at numerous points, and his remarkable voice is quite pleasing. Both Ian Knauer as Roger Debris, and Christopher Sloan as Carmen Ghia will leave you crying with laughter at their fabulous performances. These two make some of the best scenes in the show. Beautiful Gina Milo is the well-endowed Ulla. Her lovely voice rings out through the theater with impressive power. John Plumpis plays the Hitler-loving playwright Franz Liebkind. He gives a spectacularly comical performance as the crazy fanatic. The rest of this talented cast includes: Pim Van Amerongen, Emily Blake Anderson, Abby Bartish, Molly Jean Blodgett, Mary Callahan, Michael J. Farina, Carl DeForest Hendin, Jeffrey Johnson II, Larry A. Lozier Jr., Suzanne Mason, Laura Otremba, Caleb Schaaf and Erica Wilpon.

Directed by Igor Goldin, The Producers is a crazy, sidesplitting musical. The real gift of this show is making the ridiculous seem necessary. With songs like “When You Got It, Flaunt It”, “Keep it Gay” and “Springtime for Hitler” there is never a dull moment.

Advisory: Sexual themes, and cursing.

Running Time: Approximately 2 1/2 hours with one 15 minute intermission.

The Producers is running at The John W. Engeman Theater in Northport through July 12, 2015. The theater is located at 250 Main Street, Northport NY. For tickets call the box office at (631) 261-2900 or click here.

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