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by Mike Cutino
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Barbara Anne Kirshner

The Producers was the biggest hit of the 2001 Broadway season and at Theatre Three it returns as a hit in their 2023/24 season filled with spectacular shows!

If you’re looking for non-stop laughs, run over to The Producers at Theatre Three. This musical comedy by the ingenious mind of Mel Brooks depends heavily on casting just the right leads who will take the audience on a joy ride of absurdity and somehow leave us feeling for these two scoundrels. Through clever casting, Jeffrey Sanzel has done just that by placing this outrageous comedy in the hands of two veteran actors, Scott Hofer who plays the seedy producer, Max Biaylstock, stooping to anything to increase his cash flow and Tony Butera, as the long-suffering accountant, Leo Bloom, who takes part in Biaylstock’s scheme so he can go from nebbish accountant to big time producer. These two are perfect foils for each other and the audience is the winner joining in all their madcap antics.

When The Producers opened April 19, 2001 on Broadway starring Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, it broke all records taking home 12 Tony Awards. Then came a successful West End production, national tour in the US and UK and musical film adaptation in 2005 with most of the original Broadway cast.

In 1967 when the original movie starring Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder was released, it was considered irreverent but audiences relinquished their moral compass to be seduced by all the uproarious antics. There were, however, some holdouts as described by film critic, Roger Ebert in a 2000 article on the film. Ebert recounts being in an elevator with Mel Brook and his wife, actress Anne Bancroft, in New York a few months after The Producers was released. A woman got on the elevator, recognized Brooks and said, “”I have to tell you, Mr. Brooks, that your movie is vulgar.” Brooks smiled benevolently. “Lady,” he said, “It rose below vulgarity.” Brooks knew he crossed good taste for the sake of high humor and there was nothing to apologize for. In Horror Movies

With music and lyrics by Mel Brooks and book by Brooks and Thomas Meehan, this is a scrumptious tale of two deceitful theatrical producers who devise a get rich quick plot by overselling interests to investors, predominantly little old ladies, in a Broadway musical intended to flop thus collecting all that invested loot. After all, with a title like Springtime For Hitler, critics would surely pan it. But to their surprise, the show is a success thus leading to unforeseen complications.

Joining Hofer and Butera on this notorious jaunt is a superlative supporting cast. As Ulla, the sexy Scandinavian who insists on having sex exactly at eleven every morning, Brittany Lacey is adorable and oh, so talented. Upon her first entrance, she is a vison in white from her platinum blonde hair to her white overcoat soon discarded to reveal a slinky, white satin gown. She is poetry in every movement with an incredible soprano that wraps around songs like “When You’ve Got It, Flaunt It.”

Evan Teich as the Nazi-loving author, Franz Liebkind, is the character we want to hate but instead he emits guffaws from the audience with his over-the-top German accent, Nazi caricature, agility and strong vocals blasting out numbers like “Haben Sie Gehoert Das Deutsche Band?”

In an effort to assemble the worst cast and crew, Biaylstock appeals to the flamboyant and failing director Roger De Bris (Ryan Nolin) to get onboard his theatrical disaster. De Bris with his flitty domestic partner Carmen Ghia (Jim Sluder) trill out the song “Keep It Gay” insisting, “No matter what you do on the stage, keep it light, bright, keep it gay!” Nolin and Sluder are a hoot with impeccable timing and we can’t get enough of them!

The entire ensemble is on point and fills each musical number with joyful energy. A hilarious bit is the old lady chorus line doing Rockette kicks while holding on to their walkers.

Sanzel keeps the pacing quick for this almost three hour show. The band under the musical direction of Jeffrey Hoffman is tight and assists with the exuberant pacing. Josie McSwane’s polished and precise choreography adds so much flavor incorporating bubbly burlesque touches.

Randall Parsons has crafted detailed sets that miraculously appear and disappear adding to the seamless flow. Since this is a show about Broadway, lighting designer, Steven Uihlein, makes the most of white light bulbs framing a marque, an arch and as part of decorative columns.

Costumes by Ronald Green III help to create these zany characters with Ulla’s provocative gowns. Biaylstock’s dramatic black cape with red lining, De Bris’ Chrysler Building headdress, colorful chorus costumes embellished in sequins and the final scene with black and white stripped prison garments. Each costume is a feast for the eye.

Theatre Three ends its 2023/24 season on a hilarious note with Mel Brooks’ outrageously funny The Producers. Catch it now through June 22nd.

Theatre Three, 412 Main Street, Port Jefferson. 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com