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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