There’s no business like show business and Max Bialystock’s (Jason Marks) career just isn’t what it used to be. His last few plays have been total flops and he has to woo old ladies to back his productions. But Max sees an opportunity when he meets wimpy, anxious accountant, Leo Bloom (Scott Wichmann). Leo shows Max that it’s possible to make more money with a flop on Broadway, than it is with a hit. And soon Max has convinced Leo to help him find and co-produce the worst show imaginable, one that will offend every member of the audience, Springtime For Hitler.
VA-Rep’s production of the Mel Brooks’ classic, The Producers is an absolute success. This is one of the strongest casts I have seen from VA-Rep. Marks and Wichmann are the perfect duo, as a miss-matched pair of misfits who stumble into a meaningful friendship. Marks has a booming, powerful voice that adds to his character’s larger-than-life persona and Wichmann is perfectly charming as the unassuming Leo Bloom. Jody Ashworth’s portrayal of Nazi playwright, Franz Liebkind is hilarious; goofy and intimidating at the same time, a tough guy with an affinity for singing and dancing.
Michael Hawke plays Max and Leo’s chosen director for their flop, Roger De Bris, and is a delight to watch, as always, and I almost died laughing the first time he appeared on stage, and you’ll see why. In the role of Roger’s partner, Carmen Ghia, is J. Clayton Winters. Winters is fabulous as he flits about the stage in velvet leggings and his comedic timing and facial expressions are on point. I am really excited to see what’s next for this talented actor. Rachel Abrams is adorable as the Swedish ingénue, Ulla, with eyes that sparkle and a winning smile.
Patti D’Beck’s direction is precise, enhanced by her impressive and creative choreography (the number with the walkers is brilliant). Brian C. Barker’s set was beyond impressive, dynamic, grand and well constructed. Sue Griffin’s costumes were perfectly tailored and beautiful, especially the showgirl costumes in “I Wanna Be A Producer.” There were, unfortunately, some issues with the sound at times as the main characters were often drowned out by the chorus.
The Producers is showing at the November Theatre until January 13th.
Jen Maciulewicz is theatre critic for GAYRVA.com and is a Richmond local. Jen attended VCU and holds a B.S. in Anthropology. She has starred as Reno Sweeney in Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes" and attended VCU’s School of Music. Follow Jen on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jenlaumac.