Diablo Light Opera" "The Producers" a resounding success!

By Karen Jarrett

The Diablo Light Opera Company (DLOC) has just delivered a smashing, resounding success with their superb production of Mel Brook’s outrageous musical comedy, “The Producers”, in the Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts, in Walnut Creek!

The premise of this week’s production is that Broadway musicals flop all the time. The greatest intentions of songwriters and storywriters are scattered along the theatrical highway like Berma-Shave signs decorating the roadside along old US Route 66. A flop is a flop and any flop costs the same amount of money to mount as a successful production. However, under the right circumstances, “A producer can make more money with a flop than a hit”, explains Max Bialystock (played by Marcus Klinger), once called the King of Broadway, and now a middle-aged, failed producer, writer and director, to a young accountant, Leo Bloom (Ryan Drummond), who has come to audit Max’s books.

As the lights dim, the audience sees a large empty stage with the stage hands cleaning it up, and within moments, the stage opens to the bright iridescent lights of the Shubert Theatre’s marquee illuminating the stage, announcing to all prospective theatre goers, the opening of another Bialystock production, this one entitled “Funny Boy” , a new musical version of Hamlet. Max Bialystock, walks out on the stage reading a newspaper. While standing in the empty street in front of the theatre, obviously upset, Bialystock echoes the theatre critic’s comments out loud to the audience, “Everyone was dead - - They were the lucky ones!”

In the next scene, Max is stretched out in his office, on the couch, covered completely under his blanket, when a timid, mousy young accountant arrives to work on Max’s books. Following very closely on Leo’s heels, an elderly lady, one of Bialystock’s investors, enters the office, obviously more interested in Max’s sexual prowess than his profits. Within a short time Max takes a check from her for his next show, which he has temporarily titled “Cash”.

While examining Max’s books, Leo discovers a $2000 error. Max has actually made $2000 on a show that is a complete failure. How can that be??? Max cajoles Leo into cooking the books, by hinting that they form a partnership. Leo confesses to Max that it has always been his dream to become a Hollywood producer. Max then makes the comment, ”a producer can make more money with a flop than with a hit!” Leo retorts to Max, “The IRS isn’t really interested in a show that is a failure!” "You could've raised a million dollars, put on your $100,000 flop, and kept the rest!" Max then proposes the ultimate scheme. Just think - - -

“Step 1: We find the worst play ever written. Step 2: We hire the worst director in town. Step 3: We raise two million dollars...One for me, one for you. There are a lot of little old ladies out there! Step 4: We hire the worst actors in New York and open on Broadway and before you can say Step 5, we close on Broadway, take our two million, and go to Rio!”

Leo refuses to immediately step up to Max’s scheme, but continues to daydream about the prospects of becoming a theatrical producer. Within a short time, Leo makes the decision to quit his job and joins Max as his partner, singing “I Wanna Be a Producer”.

These two new partners, the “boys”, put their heads together and search for the worst musical play possible, and after hours of fruitless search, the perfect flop finally falls into their hands. This one has to be the most completely tasteless, racist, sexist musical of all times, “Springtime for Hitler: A Gay Romp with Adolf and Eva in the Berchtesgaden”. It’s got everything necessary that guarantees to send the audience stampeding for the exits.
The next day, the two ambitious producers head for the rooftops of Greenwich Village to meet with the Ex-Nazi author/playwright, Franz Liebkind (Danny Cozart), and his playful pigeons Otto, Bertha, Heinz, Wolfgang and Adolf. Well yes, Franz is a little strange, just as you might expect. Franz demands a litany of conditions to be fulfilled before he will sign the contract, including that Max and Leo join the Nazi Party! Leo is about to bolt, but Max drags him back, indicating that when the show collapses, they will be on their way to Rio with the big bucks anyway! Before they can get Franz to finally complete the contract giving them the right to mount the show, they have to join Franz in singing Hitler’s favorite song, “Der Guten Tag Hop Clop”. Following the signing of the contract, they escape the rooftop revelry with the signed contract in hand, now headed for the exclusive townhouse of Roger DeBris (Tim Johnson), admittedly the worst flaming gay director in New York. They need to sign Roger to direct the show, and he, Roger, insists that he has to have full license to change the outcome of the war, so that Hitler wins it. Bound to be a success, right?

After the boys return to their office, the most beautiful blond Swedish goddess they could imagine shows up to try out for their new production. Her cacophonic name sounds like waves crashing on Sweden’s rocky shore, “Ulla Inga Hansen Bensen Yansen Tallen Svaden Swanson”, but she agrees to go by “Ulla”, for short. (Thank goodness!) In order to keep Ulla (Ginny Wehrmeister) on call for the production, the “boys” decide they want to keep her around, so they hire her to “Tiidy uuup” the office! Eventually she will be given the lead part of Eva Braun.

In the second act, Leo falls in love with Ulla, and Ulla falls for Leo! The show, “Springtime for Hitler”, goes through a multitude of changes and problems with casting before it finally gets to the opening night curtain. But - - - what was designed to be an absolute disaster becomes an unexpected and monstrous success!

Later that night, Leo and Max turn up at their office, nearly suicidal and bemoaning their spectacular success, singing “Where Did We Go Right.” Franz breaks into the office intent on finding and murdering director Roger DeBris for his gay portrayal of Franz’s heroic leader, “Der Fuehrer”. The police hear the commotion and arrive, taking Bialystock, Franz and the accounting books with them. But what happened to Leo and Ulla, did they get killed, captured or carried away? - - - well, you will have to see the show to find out!

“The Producers” is a terrific show in every respect, a laugh a minute, that gets more insane with every passing scene. The direction by Ryan Mark Weible is really quite excellent and his selection of actors was equally superb. Costumes, which were for the most part, rented from the Las Vegas production, were superbly fitted and adapted by Melissa Anne Paterson. She was assisted by Carol Edlinger and Michael Berg. Set design by Andy Schrimger worked very well and the moving scrim screen concept allowed set changes seamlessly! The lighting by Kurt Landsman, again outstanding. Choreographer Jacob Brent excelled and the 15 piece orchestra under the direction of Music Director Mark Hanson, performed in superb fashion.

DLOC is one of only 10 regional theaters in the US to be granted the rights to this production in 2009. This production provided the East Bay premier showing of this show. The irreverent genius of Mel Brooks lives on in this, his most exciting musical ever. The Broadway production of “The Producers”, originally staged in 2001, garnered 12 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, breaking the 37 year record originally held by “Hello Dolly!”

The Producers plays Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., with matinees on Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m., now through March 15th, the closing performance. Ticket prices range between $37 and $43 each. Call (925) 943-7469 (SHOW) for tickets, or you may visit the Lesher Center box office at 1601 Civic Drive in Walnut Creek, or their website at http://www.lesherartscenter.org/ for more information.