Springtime at Village Theatre brings ‘The Producers’
May 1, 2012
By Warren Kagarise
The blockbuster musical “The Producers” is poised to storm the Village Theatre stage soon.
The satire from legendary humorist Mel Brooks centers on the titular producers, Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom, and a scheme to produce a surefire flop — a musical titled “Springtime for Hitler.”
“I just don’t think there’s a funnier musical out there,” actor Rich Gray, oily producer Bialystock in the upcoming production, said in a recent interview.
The mega-musical closes the 2011-12 season at Village Theatre. “The Producers” opens May 9.
“It’s this really funny, over-the-top, outrageous, offensive, tongue-in-cheek, farcical thing,” actor Brian Earp, timid Bloom in the show, said in a recent interview.
But, beneath the humor, is a story about the friendship between the producers.
The hilarity in “The Producers” is rooted in burlesque and vaudeville — classic forms unlike irony-driven contemporary comedy.
“None of the humor in ‘The Producers’ is snarky,” Gray said. “It’s kind of in a weird way — you would never guess — it’s really warm.”
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The 1968 film — the seed for the later musical — opened to a mixed response from critics, in part because the storyline about a Hitler-themed musical stomped on some nerves a little more than 20 years after World War II ended.
The original film featured funnyman Zero Mostel as Bialystock and a pre-Willy Wonka Gene Wilder as Bloom.
The musical based on the film debuted on Broadway in 2001 and claimed a record-breaking 12 Tony Awards. The cast’s Nathan Lane as Bialystock and Matthew Broderick as Bloom came to define the roles.
“There’s a lot of expectation for people, and the challenge for me is to give out my own stamp and figure out who it is for me,” Gray said. “I am neither Zero Mostel nor Nathan Lane, but I think I’m a very interesting Rich Gray.”
Gray caught “The Producers” on tour after the Broadway staging turned the show into a pop culture phenomenon.
“I remembered seeing the show and thinking, ‘That is a part I want to play at some point,’” he said.
Enter Village Theatre.
“Max Bialystock to me is one of those kind of Mama Rose parts,” Gray said. “They don’t come around that often, and for guys, you know, there’s not that many of them. It’s just a huge part and a huge mountain to climb. I’m always up for a challenge.”