Mel Brooks’ “The Producers,” starring Robin Jones as Bialystock, Ashley Terwilliger as Ulla and Paul Allen as Bloom, will be performed at The Grand at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 28 and 29, and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 30. Tickets cost $20 for adults and senior citizens, $18 for Grand members and $12 for youths age 12 and under. Call 667-9500 or visit www.grandonline.org. ISLANDER PHOTO BY STEVE FULLER

‘The Producers’ is outrageous! Fun with the fuhrer at Grand



ELLSWORTH — Just when you thought a night at the theater would be a nice break from the current cringe-worthy political atmosphere featuring licentious predation, moral turpitude and neo-Nazis, along comes Mel Brooks’ Broadway hit musical “The Producers.”

The show, now playing at The Grand Auditorium, is about fading hot-shot producer Max Bialystock, who, after one theatrical failure after the other, learns from his “apprentice,” an accountant named Leo Bloom, that he can actually make more money with a flop than a successful Broadway show by going bankrupt and leaving the investors with the loss.

In order to make this scheme work, Max preys on a gaggle of well-heeled old gals to finance the new show while Leo cooks the books.

The conniving pair believes they have found the perfect vehicle for their future flop in a lovingly earnest, musical tribute to the Third Reich, entitled “Springtime for Hitler.” Really, they reason, what can possibly go right with a show that celebrates the absolute worst in human nature?

While the current political scene elicits shudders, “The Producers” is actually hilarious. While at first, the laughs were a bit tentative at a recent show, eventually, the team of Bialystock and Bloom – perfectly paired and played by Robin Jones and Paul Allen – won the audience over.

Jones channels his inner hyperactive wiseacre kid as Bialystock – his second-act solo synopsis “Betrayed” is a tour de force – and his Yiddish accent is so good he should be voted an honorary Jew by the B’nai Brith. Allen, as the anxiety-ridden Bloom, melts your heart with his sweet, open smile and even sweeter voice. Before you know it, you’re rooting for their meshuga, goose-stepping, swastika-wearing scheme to work.

This cast is full of talented men. Baritone Steve Gormley as Franz Liebkind, playwright and star of the horrible “Springtime for Hitler,” is a complete hoot. Alternately cooing to his pigeons – great props there by the way – shouting orders like an obermeister or getting slap happy with a silly Bavarian folk dance, he is the most endearing Nazi one ever is likely to encounter. Perennial Gilbert & Sullivan Society fan fave Roland Dube plays Roger DeBris, the incompetent director Bialystock and Bloom have hired to ensure their moneymaking failure. Dube is at his best as he singlehandedly transforms a sure flop into a comedic hit when he steps in at the last minute to play a thoroughly flouncy fuhrer.

The men in the supporting roles, Steve Robbins, Steve Estey, Jeffery Servetas, Tim Searchfield and Jon Wood, also did a terrific job in multiple roles.

There were some great women in the cast as well, most notably Ashley Terwilliger as the luscious and leggy Ulla, who makes the boyish Bloom, uh, bloom into a man, and Bonnie Hardy as one of Max’s most ardent, elderly admirers.

And speaking of elderly admirers, the chorus of grey-haired grannies, choreographed by Sachi Cote, dancing with their walkers was the hilarious showstopper of the evening.

The set, especially Bialystock’s office with its colorful view of Broadway wonderfully realized by Ashley Harris, worked well, although some of the graphics in the second act seemed to be unfinished.

With a small budget and many costume changes, outfitting this show must have been a big challenge for costume designer Chris Dougherty, who rose to it best with Bialystock’s period suits, DeBris’ fabulous entrance gown and those wonderful grannies.

The orchestra, directed by Dana Ross, like the cast in general, is rather sparse for this big show but sounded fine even as it overpowered the singers at times. An excellent violin solo from Amanda Cushman must be noted.

Directors Ken Stack and Michael Weinstein’s combined efforts made for a cohesive, high-energy, fun show that, despite being almost too relevant or reminiscent of current events, left the audience laughing.

The final weekend of “The Producers” includes performances on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 28 and 29, at 7:30 p.m. and on Sunday, Oct. 30, at 2 p.m.

Call 667-9500 for reservation or visit grandonline.org.

Nan Lincoln

Nan Lincoln

The former arts editor at the Bar Harbor Times writes reviews and feature stories for The Ellsworth American and Mount Desert Islander.

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