THE PRODUCERS at Hillbarn a hot ticket

THE PRODUCERS: Musical Comedy. Music and lyrics by Mel Brooks. Book by Mel Brooks & Thomas Meehan. Directed by Bill Starr and musical direction by Greg “Suds” Sudmeier. Hillbarn Theatre, 1285 East Hillsdale Blvd in Foster City.  650-349-6411 or visit May 4 – 27, 2012

The Hillbarn Theatre group ends its 71st season with a rip-roaring production of The Producers that earned a standing ovation at opening night. It surely will be the hottest ticket in the Bay Area during its 3 week run despite the fact that the running time is two hours and 40 minutes, including the intermission. From the reaction of this reviewer’s guest and a majority of the audience the time seemed to fly by proving Alfred North Whitehead’s concept of relative time.

The musical is based on the 88 minute 1968 movie that won an Oscar for Mel Brooks and with the help of one of my college classmates (Thomas Meehan) converted it into the smash musical that garnered 12 Tony Awards in 2001. This was followed in 2005 movie that kept the Broadway stars, Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, in the lead roles.

Who would believe that a story about “creative accounting” (read ‘crooked accounting’) could be the subject for hilarious comedy? You had better believe and if you need proof head over to Hillbarn for verification.

Once great theatrical producer Max Bialystock (Dan Demers) has just had his umpteenth flop and he meets meek, mild mannered accountant Leo Bloom (Luke Chapman) whose biggest ambition is to be a producer offhandedly suggests a flop could make more money than a hit. Together they plan to produce the biggest flop possible with a musical Springtime for Hitler, written by neo-nazi Fraz Libkind (Ron Lopez, Jr.). To further assure failure they hire the flaming no talent queen Roger Debris (Raymond J. Mendonca) along with the love of his life Carmen Ghia [don’t you love the name] (Greg Lynch) to direct the show. Sex enters into the equation with Max servicing all the old rich ladies and Leo falling in love with tall seductive Swedish lass Ulla (Kate Paul) who sizzles with show stopping "When You've Got It, Flaunt It." Alas the best laid plans often go awry and their masterpiece failure turns out to be a smash hit.

One wonders where Hillbarn gets all the marvelous talent to fill out the remainder of the cast and perform ensemble numbers to die for. Choreographer Gary Stanford Jr. almost steals the show from the major cast members with his energetic staging. He even throws in a couple of acrobatic tumblers to bring grasps from the audience. The “Springtime for Hitler” tap dancing number is marvelously ghastly. The costumes are indescribably stupendously garish.

But even with all the accolades deserved by the ensemble, the chemistry between Dan Demeer and Luke Chapman shines through and deserve a Bay Area Critics Circle Award for their fine acting (and mugging).  No one upstages Ron Lopez Jr. and he dominates the stage with his perfect Franz Liebkind forcing Demeer and Chapman to stand and watch before joining him in dance.  Raymond J. Mendonca (the only equity member) nearly walks off with the show as the universe's gayest, and least talented, stage director.

Hillbarn’s The Producers is highly recommended even for the lady from Dubuque.
Kedar K. Adour, MD