By Connor and Bri McFadden
What is it that tells you summer is officially here? Maybe it’s spending the day at the beach, taking a camping trip, or enjoying a picnic dinner as you watch a concert in the park. I always know that summer has arrived when Moonlight Theater has its opening night of the season. Nothing says summer better than sitting under the stars and watching live theater as the music from the orchestra fills the warm summer night.
Moonlight Amphitheatre kicks starts its 39th summer season with a hilarious and inappropriate performance of “The Producers.” I must admit I knew very little about this show before seeing it. As I walked up to the ticket counter, I was surprised to see a warning sign posted on the window that read “this show is recommended for mature audiences” and “haze effects are used in this performance.” I thought to myself, this should be interesting.
As the show started I felt a little awkward. In 2019 we have made strides in equality on many levels. “The Producers” boldly, yet playfully crosses the line of inappropriateness and then destroys it. It bounces back and forth between awkward and outrageously funny as you enter the mind of writer Mel Brooks who loved to play with cultural, racial, and gender stereotypes.
The stage screamed 1950’s New York City with tall buildings, billboards, and the bright lights of downtown. Adding to the set was the full big band sound of the 20 piece orchestra. An impressive addition was a mirror the size of the entire back wall which gave the audience the vantage point of looking down on the whole ensemble as they formed a giant spinning swastika.
The story starts with a struggling producer that teams up with a star-struck accountant who has always fantasized about being a Broadway producer. The two men join forces in a ridiculous plan to make millions by producing the worst Broadway musical ever. They figure when the show bombs, they’ll keep all their investors’ money. The goal is simple: Max Bialy and co-producer Leo Bloom (played by Jamie Torcellini and Larry Raben) look for the worst script, worst director, and worst actors, trusting the result will be an absolute mess of a show.
They find a musical script from Franz Liebkind (Luke H. Jacobs), an ex-nazi stormtrooper, and are convinced they have found the show that is guaranteed to offend just about everybody. Franz’s musical “Springtime for Hitler” intended to speak of Hitler’s power and glory. The result was quite the contrary, as the dancing, singing, and very feminine tribute to Hitler were hysterical. Adding to the laughter were Franz’s Nazi pigeons who also sang, danced and gave a few “Heil Hitlers” along with Franz.
The producers next stop was to recruit the notoriously gay director Roger Debris (played by Josh Adamson) and his entourage. While Adamson did an excellent job, it was Carmen Ghia (played by Max Cadillac) who stole the show. As the eccentric and flamboyantly gay assistant to the director, he made the audience laugh until their stomach hurt.
Also worth mentioning was the long legged Swedish actress Ulla (played by Katie Barna) who convincingly captured the sultry and spicy rendition of “When you got it, flaunt it.”
For me, the most impressive part of the show was experiencing Jamie Torcellini play the role of producer Max Bialystock. Torcellini had many great moments but the most memorable was the song “Betrayed,” where he gave a solo performance, acting out all parts and doing a recap of the entire show from his holding cell in the New York courthouse.
Regardless of how you feel about Mel Brook’s humor and writing style, it’s hard to ignore the show’s impact on the audience. I can honestly say I’ve never heard people laugh so hard or for so long at Moonlight before. While Brooks is offensive, over time you realize that’s the point. Brooks took issues normally tense and polarizing and equally made fun of all of them. If you’re easily offended or even moderately so, this show may not be for you, but for those who enjoy viewing exceptional talent and hours of laugher, Moonlight’s “The Producers” is a must see.