The+Producers


Photos by Kunio Ouellette
Review by Cullen Humphreys

This evening, the Bay City Players will open their final show of the season, Mel Brooks' The Producers, starring Kurt Miller, Marty Hofelich, and Renee Pawloski, and directed by the duo of Mike Wisniewski and Mike Dunckel.

Based on Brooks's 1968 film, the show follows Max Bialystock, a morally questionable down-on-his-luck Broadway producer, and his neurotic accountant friend, Leo Bloom. While trying to reconcile the accounting for Max's last failed show, Leo realizes a flop could make more money than a hit. Just a hint of the scheme sends Max into a greed-fueled frenzy; with that he's out to screw his backers out of their money, in the most risqué sense of the word. Together they find the worst play ever written—the aptly named, neo-Nazi musical "Springtime For Hitler: a gay romp with Eva and Adolf in Berchtesgaden" the worst director on Broadway, and the worst actors they can find. It's a recipe for disaster and for once it's for the best. The only catch is, what if "Springtime for Hitler" is a blitzkrieg on Broadway?

Kurt Miller's portrayal of the shyster Bialystock is spot on. He's cunningly filthy, dishonest and fun to watch. With his big voice, Miller is a commanding figure on the stage. Meanwhile, Marty Hofelich is thorough as the neurotic and anxiety-ridden accountant Leo Bloom: the nervous waver in his voice continues into a vibrato in his singing. The primary love interest—the sultry Nordic Ulla, played by Renee Pawloski—has the confidence to parallel Leo's social ineptitude.

Impressively, each member of the chorus plays multiple roles, from homeless folk to showgirls. Some of the chorus members push the limit, drawing eyes away from the primary action of the scene—this being said, the energy given off by the chorus is infectious; you'll catch yourself tapping your feet and maybe even singing along.

Directors Mike Wisniewski and Mike Dunckel, who have stepped in to replace an ailing Tina Sills, agree that The Producers is one of the most ambitious productions ever put on stage by the Players in their 90 year history. Their expert direction has guided the two dozen cast members, who range in age from 18 to 75, with members driving from as far away as Central Michigan University to rehearse.

"I've never seen a family of volunteers come together and work on the show like this," says Leeds Bird, who joins the cast as Roger Dr Bris, the flamboyant director of “Springtime for Hitler." "It's community theatre at its best!"

Bird and Wisniewski not only appear on stage but are also are responsible for the show's multiple sets that flow ingeniously from scene to scene. Denise Avery has created a true spectacle and has outdone herself with the unexpected yet spectacular costumes. John Van Looy has expertly lit the stage.

"The Producers" is profoundly, or possibly offensively, funny while quite touching. It's Mel Brooks at his best. The dynamics of the cast only feed the excitement and energy of the show.

The Producers runs April 22nd through 25th and April 29th through May 2nd, 2010. Tickets are $18 for adults, $16 for students and seniors. The box office can be reached at (989) 893-5555. More information at baycityplayers.com

Cullen Humphreys lives and breathes theater. He would like to add a Mel Brooks signature "Sieg Heil!" to the cast and crew in lieu of "break a leg!"

© Cullen Humphreys, 2010