"How could this happen? I was so careful. I picked the wrong play, the wrong director, the wrong cast. Where did I go right?"
These words, uttered by distraught Broadway producer Max Bialystock, aptly summarize the premise of Mel Brooks' wildly successful comic musical, "The Producers."
And when it comes to irony, this show is saturated in it.
Audiences are treated to hilarious scenes, like this one, at Maui OnStage’s production of Mel Brooks’ “The Producers.” Actors shown here are Jim Oxborrow (from left), Dylan Bode, Mark Bolden, Michael Pulliam, Jason Wulf, Steven Dascoulias, Charles Cook, Francis Tau‘a, Beth Garrow, Jeffrey Brackett, Kalani Whitford, and Rueben Carrion.
JACK GRACE photo
"The Producers" centers around a plot to produce a Broadway show so terrible that it won't survive opening night.
That certainly wasn't the case at the Maui OnStage premiere of Brooks' smash hit last weekend. It was a fast-paced, highly entertaining production that left many in the audience, myself included, wanting to see it again.
Under the direction of Jennifer Rose, musical director Stephen Haines and choreographer Camille Romero, this musical comedy delivers riotous fun at its best.
"The Producers" has been leaving audiences in stitches since Brooks' Oscar-winning film debuted in 1968. It later became a Broadway smash hit, sweeping the Tony Awards with 12 wins in 2001.
It's easy to see why.
Set in New York City in 1959, "The Producers" tells the tale of the unlikely friendship forged between a painfully neurotic accountant and wannabe producer, Leo Bloom, played by Michael Pulliam, and the washed-up, cash-strapped Bialystock, masterfully played by Steven Dascoulias.
On a routine visit to audit Max's books, Leo unknowingly helps Max concoct a get-rich-quick scheme after he suggests that a Broadway producer could rake in more money with a flop instead of a hit.
Hilarity ensues as the two proceed to find the worst play imaginable in order to bilk their investors (a group of lascivious little old ladies) out of millions.
And they find it.
Springtime For Hitler: A Gay Romp with Adolf and Eva in Bertechesgaden, penned by flamboyant ex-Nazi Franz Liebkind (Dale Button), is a musical tribute featuring an ensemble cast of singing Nazis and showgirls in Bavarian pretzel hats (among other things).
The co-conspirators also commission the worst director in town, Roger DeBris (Francis Tau'a), and his "common law assistant," Carmen Ghia (Kalani Whitford), as well as a motley crew of notoriously awful actors.
Joining their scheme is seductive Swedish bombshell Ulla Inga Hansen Benson Yansen Tallen Hallen Svaden Swanson (yes, that's her real name). Ulla, played by the effervescent Laura Cole, bewitches Max and Leo (not to mention, the audience) from the moment she saunters through the front door.
With their plan set in motion, the producers intend to sit back on opening night with a bottle of champagne-and wait for the onslaught of bad reviews.
But, in true Mel Brooks fashion, things don't go according to plan.
What does go according to plan, however, is MauiOnstage's rendition of "The Producers." Each of the 32 cast members-from the principal actors to the supporting roles-gives a standout performance, and collectively, the cast is a comic tour de force.
Dascoulias and Pulliam are well cast as the lead characters of Max and Leo. Dascoulias delivers snappy dialogue and caustic one-liners with panache, and Pulliam generates uncontrollable fits of laughter with his pitch-perfect expressions.
Tau'a, Whitford and Button bring enormous talent, wit and eccentricity (and lederhosen) to the stage. Simply stated, all three are plain hilarious, each delivering a knockout performance that supplies no shortage of gut-busting, laugh-out-loud moments.
Additional cast members (and I wish I could name all 32 here), including Joyce Romero, Mark Bolden, Charles Cook, Dylan Bode, Ellen Peterson, Rachel Bega and Rebecca Narrowe, give highly impressive performances that border on the ridiculous and the absurd-but that's exactly how Brooks intended it to be.
The set of "The Producers" is functional, visually appealing and just as clever as the show itself, thanks to set designer Caro Walker. The same can be said for the talented handiwork of costume designer Marsha Kelley, who has created some unforgettable and (ahem) cheeky costumes for the performers.
If there's one thing to be said about this show, it's that those without a sense of humor need not apply. That being said, you should be prepared to laugh.
"The Producers" offers non-stop humor, but the "I Wanna Be a Producer," "Keep it Gay" and "Springtime for Hitler" musical numbers are funny, fabulous and over-the-top-again, exactly how Brooks intended it to be.
If laughter really is the best medicine, then I assure you Maui OnStage's "The Producers" is just what the doctor ordered.
* The Maui premiere of Mel Brooks' "The Producers" opened on Friday, July 6, and will run through Sunday, July 29. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and at 3 p.m. on Sundays at the Historic Iao Theater in Wailuku. Tickets for reserved seating are $15 to $28, and dinner packages are available with Bistro Casanova. Please note, "The Producers" contains sexual innuendo and language and may not be appropriate for children. For tickets or for more information, call 242-6969; or purchase tickets online at mauionstage.com.
Theatre Theatre Maui's 20th annual summer camp will present a production of "The Wizard of Oz," July 20 through the 22 at the Westin Maui's Haleakala Ballroom.
The six week camp for westside youths has been taken place at Lahainaluna High School since 1991. This summer 31 drama students will perform the weekend production under the direction of Kristi Scott, technical director Derek Nakagawa, musical director Marti Kluth, choreographer Hadley Garcia with costumes by Sarah Loney.
Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m., Sundays 3 p.m. Tickets are $10 adults, $5 children 12 and younger and may be purchased at the door one hour prior to the performance or in advance at Lahaina Music. For more information contact Theatre Maui at 661-1168.
MAPA presents "Disney's Sleeping Beauty," with music and lyrics by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, George Bruns, Tom Adair, Winston Hibler, Ted Sears, Sammy Fain and Jack Lawrence. The production is adapted and arranged with additional music and lyrics by Bryan Louiselle and is based on the book adapted by Marcy Heisler.
Its princess Aurora's sixteenth birthday and Flora, Fauna and Merryweather must use their fairy magic to save her from the spell of evil sorceress Maleficent.
The production will include several songs from the classic animated film including "Once Upon a Dream." The production is directed by Kathleen Schulz and features MAPA students age 7 to 12. Performances are July 26 through 29 at the Steppingstone Playhouse, at 7 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, and at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets are $12 adults and $8 students 12 and under. For reservations or more information visit mauiacademy.org, call 244-8760 or purchase at the customer service kiosk at Queen Ka'ahumanu Center.
Augie T's "Summer of LOL" comes to the McCoy Theater at the MACC, Saturday July 28. Augie brings his hilarious local kine comedy back to Maui for one night only. Special guest Brad Starks, stand-up comic and impressionist will be the opening act. Performance at 7:30 p.m., tickets $20 general, $35 premium with a special post show meet and greet included. To purchase tickets visit the MACC box office, call 242-7469 or order online at mauiarts.org.