Saturday, October 20, 2012

Theatre review: "The Producers" from Point Park U's Conservatory Theatre Company-Sunday, 21st October, 2012

You might ask yourself “Self? Who came up with the musical version of Hamlet called Funny Boy? Who struck gold, titillating the public by re-working Oliver Goldsmith into She Shtupps to Conquer? Who found the road to success aboard A Streetcar Named Murray ?” Answer: Max Bialystock who claims, early in the riotous musical The Producers, that his is one of the biggest names on Broadway: 13 letters.

You see where this is heading, right? Head on over to Pittsburgh Playhouse and hold onto your seat, a hit up there onstage is socking it to ‘em. Get this: no one in the cast had even been tickling their parents featherbeds when this thing was conceived as a 1968 movie; university students have all the roles. Point Park University Conservatory Theatre students. They serve it up in spades. Dig it, thanks to Susan Stroman’s 2001 directorial concepts and choreography re-created, enriched and enhanced by Tomè Cousin.

You know, no doubt, that the musical collected a bunch of Tony Awards and packed Broadway houses for years. And you know too, that, writing this, Mel Brooks packed this package with off-the-wall, sometimes outrageous gags. 

So nu? No, it’s not new. A road company starring Lewis J. Stadlen hit Pittsburgh’s funny bone in 2005 and Pittsburgh CLO had a romp with it a year ago. Why see this one? I’d say because it’s fresh, alive and kicking doing justice to all the good things in it.

The cast plays, dances and sings everything with professional quality and class. The sets and costumes look great. The 12-member orchestra led by Douglas Levine swings and sways to perfection.

FYI: Max teams up with previously shy accountant Leo Bloom to produce the world’s worst show so that, when it quickly tanks, they can keep all the investments. They discover Franz Liebkind' s dictator-love-fest Springtime for Hitler, (“There was a painter! He could paint an entire apartment in one afternoon! Two coats!”) And they hire cross-dressing, disaster-prone director Roger DeBris, who gets to wear Hitler-like boots and belts. But the best laid-men’s plan falls on its tush.

Tom Driscoll’s take on Max comes full of style, stomping, flopping, swaggering. Playing Leo, Carter Ellis’ quivering, shivering charm will win you over. Jordan Ross Weinhold superbly channels a Paul Lynde-like version of Roger DeBris, shimmering in his gowns, and, as Hitler, sashaying in his swastikas. Then there’s Carmen Ghia, named for a sleek Italian body powered by German know-how. Brandon Taylor’s takes the prize as that flaming flamingo whose every bone seems made of spandex.

The cast taps superbly, and it’s got rhythm, punctuating the score with adding machines and old lady walkers.

So what if Brooks’ music sounds generic and the second act looks too padded? It doesn’t matter in the long run. Too bad this has such a short run. These students, still learning their craft in class, have the class to make this production a hoot full of style. Cousin got them there and they make the best of it.

The Producers keeps rolling them in the aisles through Sunday, October 28th at Pittsburgh Playhouse, 222 Craft Avenue, Oakland. 412-392-8000 or


  1. I agree with your take on this show, Gordon, except for your amazingly glaring omission of one actor's performance. Mandie Russak's Ulla. Or as Bialistock would say "Oooh wah weee wah wah wow wowie...Ulla!" She was, as any Ulla should, MUST be, a seen stealer. She really knows how to stroot her stoof.

    Other than that, great work and thank you for tirelessly seeing and reviewing these shows and reminding the readers of the quality Pittsburgh has coming out of CMU and Point Park with regularity.

  2. Yikes...I meant "scene stealer" not "seen stealer." Where is autocorrect when you need it!?