AISLE SAY San Francisco


Music and Lyrics by Mel Brooks
Book by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan
Directed & Choreographed by Susan Stroman
Presented by Best of Broadway
At the Orpheum Theatre
1192 Market St., San Francisco / (415) 512-7770

Reviewed by Judy Richter

Mel Brooks is a triple-threat man of the theater, as proven by his genius in writing the music and lyrics and co-writing the book (with Thomas Meehan) for "The Producers." He's also a man with his tongue planted firmly in his cheek as he tells the tale of a veteran theatrical producer and his newfound partner who decide to stage the worst Broadway musical in history and abscond with $2 million from their backers. The irony is that despite their best efforts to find the worst play, hire the worst director and cast the worst actors, "Springtime for Hitler" is a hit, and they wind up in jail.

Brooks does all this with sprightly songs, clever lyrics and snappy dialogue abetted by a first-rate design team and a thoroughly likable cast. Lewis J. Stadlen, who has spot-on timing, plays Max Bialystock, the veteran producer portrayed by Nathan Lane in the Broadway production. After his latest show closes after only one performance, his accountant, Leo Bloom (Don Stephenson in the Matthew Broderick role) discovers that he actually made money from the early closure. That's how the scheme is hatched, once Max persuades the timid Leo to go along with him in "We Can Do It." Stadlen and Stephenson, who looks like a young Milton Berle, get strong support from Lee Roy Reams as the very gay director, Roger De Bris; Angie Schworer as Ulla, the very sexy Swedish show girl who captures Leo's heart; and the entire cast.

As for the creative team, Susan Stroman's direction and choreography are inspired, while Robin Wagner's sets are colorful and flexible. Likewise, William Ivey Long's costumes, Steve Canyon Kennedy's sound and Peter Kaczorowski's lighting are first-rate. Don York conducts the orchestra.

Like "Springtime for Hitler," the show within the show, "The Producers" abounds in questionable taste, yet it's so cleverly and joyfully presented that it's hard to be offended. Smiles, laughter and applause are the primary reactions. It's all great fun.

For More Information
Return to Home Page