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Review: The Producers

Springtime for Kenner: Rivertown Theaters stages the musical comedy inspired by Mel Brooks’ movie

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Timid accountant Leo Bloom wants to be a Broadway producer, but he's barely able to talk to a woman, let alone put on a show. When he checks the books for famed producer Max Bialystock, however, he realizes a producer could make millions if a show flops. He casually mentions this to Max, who then runs with the idea in The Producers, the musical adaptation of Mel Brooks' 1967 movie, now playing at Rivertown Theaters for the Performing Arts.

  Max (Sean Patterson) is greedy and unscrupulous. He raises money for his shows by canoodling with rich older

women. Max is sleazy, but Patterson gives him sufficient emotional range to make him personable. As producing partners, the cocky Max and insecure Leo (Gary Rucker) are opposites. Rucker plays Leo with a mix of wide-eyed nerves and charm. He's a confident performer even when his character isn't. Patterson's performance is full of personality, and his presence fills the stage. Rucker and Patterson play off each other's energy and that dynamic is fun to watch.

  In one of the most dramatic scenes, Bloom stands with a calculator, surrounded by fellow accountants, and sings about his big dreams. Eventually, he is joined by a tap-dancing chorus line, choreographed by Kelly Fouchi, Caroline Cuseo and Karen Hebert. The scene showcases what Rivertown consistently brings to its musicals: strong voices, elaborate sets (this one designed by Marty Aikens) and energetic group numbers.

  Leo and Max decide to produce German-born Franz Liebkind's (Alan Payne) musical, Springtime for Hitler, which they think should guarantee a flop. The play within the play provides a satirical insight about the fickle nature of popularity and the public. Payne's Liebkind is hilariously weird — his goose-stepping is almost performance art. On Springtime's opening night, the leading man gets hurt and director Roger De Bris (Kevin Murphy) must step into the role. Murphy is excellent; the story calls for him to play De Bris as an over-the-top gay stereotype, but he doesn't push it too far.

  The Swedish bombshell Ulla (Cuseo) auditions for the show and ultimately falls in love with Bloom. Cuseo has a standout voice and brings an interesting mix of quirkiness and sexiness to the show, particularly in the solo "When You Got It, Flaunt It."

  The Producers is a fun, energetic production, full of darkly humorous jokes delivered by a talented cast.

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