As with any big hit show on Broadway, before long the
touring companies are sure to follow, which is a good thing. How else could the
rest of the country enjoy what takes place on Broadway?
Mel Brook's has set himself up for a winner with some
possible risks. A winner, in that the Broadway production of The Producers
claimed a record number of 12 Tony Awards, though I was personally surprised to
see this take home "best musical, best score or best featured actress in a
musical." But win it did!
A risk, in that the original casting of Nathan Lane ( Max
Bialystock) and Matthew Broderick (Leo Bloom) are the "golden boys" in their
perspective roles and pretty much as good as it gets in these roles. This is an
enviable compliment to Lane and Broderick, while a possible casting dilemma for
The Producers producers. Fortunately this show flourishes well under the
strength of Susan Stroman's direction and choreography. I'm sure Mr. Brooks
will have a few good years on the road with this crowd pleaser.
So, on to the show. The crowd at the Merriam was excited
to be there. Let's face it, two of the most anticipated shows for the 2003-04
season were Chicago and The Producers and both delivered!
Despite the high hilarity of a musical comedy about a pair
of mis-matched, swindling Broadway producers, plotting to rip off the public
with a well invested flop hit, there's a ton of things happening on that stage
that requires an army of behind the scene magic to pull off this mega-show. And
pull it off they do! Stroman's work is famous for her use of swings, tables (Contact)
and file cabinets (Music Man) and she uses both of these props again.
The dancing flows naturally and reflects exactly what Brook's has put on the
page. From the little old ladies and
their tap dancing walkers to the pigeon puppets in their salute to Hitler, the
Brooks humor is matched with the Stroman success record once again.
This tour cast is a talented, high- energy group that is
overall top notch. The focus is on the ill-fated "producers" Bialystock &
Bloom. Bob Amaral (Max
Bialystock) has a great opening line in his bio. He comes to this blockbuster
from another blockbuster, the national tour of The Lion King, where he
played Pumba. Amaral comments " Hey,
just think about it, it's not such a stretch to go from a flatulent
grub-eating, but lovable warthog to a fraudulent, money-grubbing but lovable
producer!" Amaral has done his homework
with this tough, on your toes role. But he seems to work too hard to get the
comedy just the way it's "supposed" to come off. Looking a bit fierce and focused at times, he
delivers his shtick well, but it doesn't come naturally.
Andy Taylor (Leo Bloom) originated the
roles of Howard in Moon Over Buffalo and J.H. Rodgers in Titanic on
Broadway. Taylor plays the sheepish
accountant turned reluctant producer well, though his vulnerability and boyish
charm is not quite all that it could be. I found his vocal ability inconsistent
the night I saw him. Still, the pair has a fair amount of chemistry and good
comedic timing. But therein lies the risk. With a musical that relies so
heavily on its two main leads, this will remain a challenge to find two actors
to fit the bill that the original Broadway leads set and spoiled the audience
with their polished to near perfect performances.