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.

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