THE PRODUCERS at 6th Street Playhouse visually stunning

(Top L to R) The cast of The Producers: Major characters: April Krautner as Ulla; Jeff Cote as Leo Bloom; Matlock Zumsteg as Max Bialystock; Mark Bradbury as Franz Liebkind; Adam Burkholder as Carmen Ghia and Larry Williams as Roger DeBris. (Middle L to R) Jeff Cote as Leo Bloom; Mark Bradbury as Franz Liebkind and Matlock Zumsteg as Max Bialystock. (Lower) Jeff Cote as Leo Bloom dreams of being a Broadway producer with four members of the ensemble. Photos by Eric Chazankin.

THE PRODUCERS: Musical Comedy. Music and lyrics by Mel Brooks. Book by Mel Brooks & Thomas Meehan. Directed by Craig Miller. Musical direction by Janis Wilson. Choreography by Vicki Suemnicht. 6th Street Playhouse, GK Hardt Theatre, 52 West 6th Street, Santa Rosa, CA 95401. 707-523-4185 or

THE PRODUCERS at 6th Street Playhouse visually stunning and a barrel of fun

Sixth Street Playhouse ends its 2011-2012 season with a rip-roaring production of The Producers that earned a standing ovation at opening night. 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. Since that time it has made the rounds of community theaters with varying degrees of success.

Having recently reviewed the Hillbarn production of The Producers ( a comparison may be in order. Hillbarn used 32 actors, a full orchestra (canned), an Equity actor in a lead role of Roger Debris and rented costumes from a professional source. Sixth Street has streamlined the cast to 19, has a live 12 piece band (musical direction by Janis Wilson) in the pit, home grown costumes (Erika Hauptman) and sets (Paul Gilger) that filled their huge stage with added video projections. Such an ambitious undertaking, while not as polished or as grand as Hillbarn’s, earns its accolades for the energetic staging but one could wish for more polished performances by some of the actors and a shortening of the three hour running time.

The storyline is as improbable as could be, unless you are a believer in “creative accounting” similar to the Enron fiasco. Once great theatrical producer Max Bialystock (Matlock Zumsteg) has just had another flop with a musical comedy version of Hamlet! In walks meek, mild mannered accountant Leo Bloom (Jeff Cote) whose biggest ambition is to be a Broadway producer. Leo 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 pigeon fancier Franz Libkind (Mark Bradbury). They hire Roger DeBris (Larry Williams) along with the love of his life Carmen Ghia (Adam Burkholder) to direct the show and surely their lack of talent will further assure failure.

To get the two million dollars, one each for Max and Leo, to produce their flop, Max hilariously services a cadre of little old ladies with his omnivorous sexual appetite. In enters a tall seductive Swedish lass Ulla (April Krautner) who sizzles with the show stopping "When You've Got It, Flaunt It" even though you cannot understand more than a few words of the song due to an attempt to project a Swedish accent.

The nefarious plans meet obstacle after obstacle. The first obstacle is to con Franz Libkind into signing a contract that requires Leo and Max to dance “Der Gutten Tag Hop-Clop.” Mark Zumsteg and Jeff Cote perform admirable with good onstage charisma but Mark Bradbury gets the brass ring for his over-the-top performance. It is a pleasure to see him dominate the stage in all his numbers.

Larry Williams has the most polished singing voice and should have controlled center stage in the hysterical Gay scene when we get to meet Roger DeBris’s production crew but he is upstaged by audience favorite Adam Burkholder as the universe's gayest queen on the block. Williams on opening night did not radiate enough gay flair to carry the part despite the fact his initial drag costume made him look like the Chrysler Building is 'très chic'

The ensemble often times carry the show performing choreographer Vickie Suemnicht’s tricky steps with enough intentional flaws to garner laughs and bringing applause for the 42nd Street rip-off tap dancing number. When the running time is cut back to the normal two hour and forty minutes 6th Street’s The Producers” is well worth a trip to Santa Rosa. Make an evening of it had have dinner in the charming Railroad Square just two blocks away.

The ensemble includes: Joey Abrego, Vanessa Bautista, Megan Bartlet, Clint Campbell, Anya Cherniss, Alexandra Cummins, Katie Neuberger, Rebekah Patti, Patrick St. John, Dwayne Stincelli, Zane Walters and Erik Weiss.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

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