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The Producers Revisited at The St. James Theatre

- Backstage with the Playwrights

The Producers
St. James Theatre

The Producers
The Mel Brooks Musical
Book by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan
Music and Lyrics by Mel Brooks
And by Special Arrangement with StudioCanal
St James Theatre
246 West 44th Street

Starring: John Treacy Egan and Hunter Foster
Also Starring: Brad Musgrove, Bill Nolte,
Lee Roy Reams, Angie Schworer
With: Madeleine Doherty, Kathy Fitzgerald, Eric Gunhus,
Kevin Ligon, Peter Marinhos, Christina Marie Norrup
And: Philip Michael Baskerville, Jim Borstelmann, Angie C. Creighton, Justin Greer,
Kimberly Hester, Stacey Todd Holt, Shauna Hoskin, Kimberly Catherine Jones,
Chris Klink, Katrina Loncaric, Liz McKendry, Jason Patrick Sands,
Will Taylor, Wendy Waring, Ashley Yeater, Courtney Young

Directed and Choreographed by Susan Stroman
Musical Arrangements and Supervision by Glen Kelly
Scenic Design: Robin Wagner
Lighting Design: Peter Kaczorowski
Costume Design: William Ivey Long
Wig & Hair Design: Paul Huntley
Associate Director: Steven Zweigbaum
Associate Choreographer: Warren Carlyle
Orchestrations: Doug Besterman
Music Direction and Vocal Arrangements: Patrick S. Brady
Music Coordinator: John Miller
Conductor: Patrick S. Brady
Technical Supervisor: Juniper Street Productions
Sound Design: Steve C. Kennedy
Casting: Tara Rubin Casting
Original Casting: Johnson-Liff Associates
Associate Producers: Frederic H. and
Rhonda Mayerson/Jennifer Costello
General Management: Richard Frankel Productions/Laura Green
Producers: Rocco Landesman, Live Nation,
The Frankel*Baruch*Viertel*Routh Group,
Bob and Harvey Weinstein, Rick Steiner, Robert F.X. Sillerman,
Mel Brooks, in Assoc. with James D. Stern/Douglas Meyer
Press: Barlow * Hartman

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
September 27, 2006

It was good to revisit Mel Brooks’ zany comedy, The Producers. It had been just over 20 months since my first Producers experience, and I have since seen Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick in the film version, as well. Mel Brooks is a genius, and to have created book, music, and lyrics, all at once, he needs genius onstage to carry off such brilliant potential. The two main characters, Max Bialystock (the producer) and Leo Bloom (his accountant and partner in crime), have some of the funniest scenes and situations, ever, onstage. From moment one, John Treacy Egan, who has already performed in this production as Roger DeBris, the director of the play within a musical, energizes and mesmerizes, with charisma and pizzazz. However, Hunter Foster, as Leo Bloom, takes a good part of the first act to transform into the nebbishy, soon-to-be sexy co-producer of Springtime for Hitler, the “sure-fire-flop”. But, once Foster loses his inhibitions and stretches his stage persona, beyond a look-alike Matthew Broderick, he and John Treacy Egan dazzle the audience with equal wildness and outsized song and dance routines, the stuff of success.

Joining Max and Leo is Ulla, the Swedish knockout, a secretary with a schedule for everything, including sex (11:00 AM). Angie Schworer, as Ulla, has the quintessential Swedish accent and figure and is utterly charming and engaging. Plus, she sings, acts, dances, and, in the show, paints the producer’s office, keeps the appointments, and more. Speaking of appointments, Max and Leo plan to produce a flop, in order to maximize the money, that is, take it as a loss and run. The financiers (appointments) are “Hold-me Touch-me”, “Lick-me Bite-me”, “Kiss-me Feel-me”, and a full ensemble of little, rich old ladies in walkers who write checks for private adventures with Max Bialystock. Max keeps a cabinet full of their photos, in order to keep track of them, as they pretty much all look alike. Madeleine Doherty, as “Hold-me Touch-me”, the lead little old lady, was hilarious beyond explanation, popping up (literally) throughout the show.

The writer of Springtime for Hitler, a “real-life” Nazi, who keeps trained pigeons on his roof in the Village, is Franz Liebkind (Bill Nolte), and this actor seems more German than many of my German friends. And, he sings and dances in lederhosen. When, as the almost star (Hitler) of his own play, he actually “breaks a leg”, moments after the opening night greeting of “Good Luck” (a bad luck omen), Roger DeBris, the play within a play’s director, takes over. Lee Roy Reams (Roger DeBris), as the very gay, transvestite, theatrical personality with an apartment full of fey assistants, is first seen in his milieu in one of the most hysterically funny scenes ever produced onstage. The highlight of that scene is Brad Musgrove, as Carmen Ghia, Roger’s aerobically-reduced assistant, with a fashionable and figurative walk. In fact, I’d love to see a play or musical, just about the characters in Roger’s world, a quasi-“Cage aux Folles”.

The ensemble, as show dancers, little old ladies on walkers, jury members, prison entertainers, and a constant, joyful chorus, are perfection and pleasure. I happen to know Kimberly Hester, who has been in this show throughout its run, and these men and women are versatile, talented, and the force behind the long-running and award-winning notoriety of The Producers. “Along Came Bialy” and “Act One Finale”, as well as the Act II “Prisoners of Love” and “Curtain Call”, as the two producers finally get lucky, après-prison and après-mariage (Leo and Ulla), are nothing short of brilliant. There are numerous other actors, portraying Roger’s ultra-gay cohorts, police, prison guards, would-be Hitlers, Judge, etc., and each fits this production with aplomb.

Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan scored a hit (twelve TONY Awards) that keeps giving, year after year, since it opened six years ago, and it now tours internationally. Robin Wagner’s scenes are amazing to behold and even more amazing backstage, as I found in my tours. William Ivey Long’s scintillating costumes, with hand-beaded and hand-painted effects, are customized for each actor with acute attention. Even the wigs are baked and curled each night, for fresh styling and naturalness. Peter Kaczorowski’s lighting and Steve Kennedy’s sound are flawless. But, it’s Susan Stroman’s direction and choreography and Glen Kelly’s musical arrangements and supervision, with Patrick Brady’s seamless leadership of one of the best Broadway orchestras, that give The Producers its magic and momentum. From the first dimming of the lights, the orchestra sets a tone of buoyant rhythm and rousing emotion, real musical pros. You just know, early on, that you’re in for a Broadway bash.

Before or after this show at the St. James Theatre, on West 44th Street, in the heart of Times Square, be sure to visit Amarone Ristorante, 686 Ninth Avenue, at 48th Street, for upscale and delicious Italian dining and partying, at reasonable prices, with one of the best bars in town. This is a restaurant where you can dine alone among new friends. Small and large groups are always welcome. You may even see some of the cast of The Producers, after the show, relaxing at the Amarone bar. Ask for Tony or Gian Paolo and tell them you saw them on

The Producers
Photo courtesy of Paul Kolnik

The Producers
Photo courtesy of Paul Kolnik

The Producers
Photo courtesy of Paul Kolnik

The Producers
Photo courtesy of Paul Kolnik

The Producers
Photo courtesy of Paul Kolnik

The Producers
Photo courtesy of Paul Kolnik

The Producers
Photo courtesy of Paul Kolnik

Matles Elegant Floral Arrangement at Amarone Restaurant Bar
Photo courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

Post Performance St. James Theatre
Photo courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

Kimberly Hester, The Producers Ensemble, at Leisure, Post-Performance
Photo courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

My guest, Carlos Salvador, Commerce Bank, and Kimberly Hester
Photo courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

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For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at