Good news everyone. All the gender slamming, race insulting, creed bashing, sexually charged humor that Mel Brooks is famous for transfers flawlessly to the stage.
The Producers’ national tour opened its 12-day stint in Tampa Tuesday night at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center.
Max Bialystock, played by Lewis J. Stalden, is a Broadway producer that has fallen on bad times and is desperate for his former days of glory or at least money. Max’s wishes seem to come true when cowardly accountant Leo Bloom (Alan Ruck) comes to do his bookkeeping and accidentally stumbles upon a scheme to make money off of a flop.
After a few musical numbers help Leo make up his mind about the scheme, the show begins to take a humorous turn. Max and Leo are out to make the worst show ever, and they start with a script called Springtime for Hitler.
Only Mel Brooks could come up with such a derogatory, potentially insulting play about a derogatory, potentially insulting play. From Jewish jokes to making fun of homosexuals, Brooks doesn’t leave anyone out of the cross hairs when he wrote this.
One scene even has a tap routine done with walkers, most commonly seen aiding the elderly in nursing homes or around town. This is Florida after all.
To add to the comedy, the gay director (Lee Roy Reams) of Springtime for Hitler winds up playing the lead role himself. Anyone would laugh at a prancing Hitler that gives the Nazi salute with a limp wrist as if he was offering his hand for a kiss. And what is the use of homosexual humor if you aren’t going to reference the Village People? The director’s entourage had a biker, an Indian, a police officer and a construction worker.
The role of Leo, made famous by Matthew Broderick, is now occupied by Broderick’s former colleague. Ruck played Cameron Frye, Ferris Bueller’s best friend in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
Although supposedly playing second fiddle to the role of Max, Ruck seemed to take over when on stage. Ruck nails both body movements and dialogue, keeping the audience laughing. His acting is convincing and his singing excellent, though a few songs are just a bit too high for Ruck’s voice.
Opposite Leo is Max, a role originally performed by Nathan Lane. Although talented in both acting and singing, at times Stalden is hard to understand because he tries too hard to project a rough and tumble New York voice, something that definitely detracts from the show.
Stalden and Ruck make a great team and look natural together on stage, the only thing stronger than the duo is the woman that makes this a triple threat — Charley Izabella King, playing Ulla the Swedish secretary. Unlike Stalden, King uses her character voice with a purpose that makes the audience laugh.
Gay Nazis, the Village People, live music, singing and dancing mixed in with a little racial humor — who could think of a better night at the theatre? Thank you, Mel Brooks.
The Producers is playing at Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center until May 2. Tickets are $42- $80. Showtimes vary between nights.