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Virginia Rep Theatre The Producers

By • Nov 20th, 2012 • Category: Reviews
The Producers
Virginia Rep Theatre
Virginia Rep Center – November Theatre
Through January 13th
2:40 with one intermission
$15 – $60
Reviewed November 16th, 2012

Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder. Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick. These classic duos are known for bringing to life the film and Broadway versions of Mel Brooks’ The Producers. Add to them the pair of Jason Marks and Scott Wichmann who are currently appearing at the November Theater in Richmond in Virginia Rep’s current production of the musical version.

In another first for me, I brought my parents to see a recent matinĂ©e, since they are from the same generation as Brooks; to help me evaluate the quality of the performance. My parents, who grew up in NYC and saw many a Broadway Show (my Great Uncle worked on Broadway!) said over and over, “the show was good, but those two leads were great – they should be on Broadway!”

This Mel Brooks comedy tells the story of a washed up Broadway producer, Max Bialystock (Marks), and a neurotic accountant, Leo Bloom (Wichmann), and their scheme to make millions on a Broadway flop. The music and lyrics of the sixteen songs are by Mel Brooks, and the show is filled with Brooks’ signature slapstick shtick, and physical comedy.

My mother was most impressed with Marks’ ability to belt out and dance to wild and fast musical numbers and yet not skip a beat to catch his breath in each scene immediately afterwards. Marks had excellent comic timing, physicality of the humor, and a wide range of facial expressions. Vocally, he was always pitch perfect and could easily have carried the show by himself.

Fortunately, Wichmann was every bit his equal and added such an innocent “nebbish” like-ability in his characterization of Bloom. Their voices blended perfectly together, and their comic timing in playing off each other never missed a beat. In some ways the pair could be compared to Laurel and Hardy. Wichmann was a bit of Rick Moranis, Gilbert Gottfried, Jerry Lewis and Arnold Stang (I didn’t get this reference, but in looking him up on Wikipedia, my mother, as always, was right) all rolled into one.

Perhaps it was because the duo was so superior, it made the rest of the cast just “good” in comparison. Now, this is not necessarily a bad thing, because they weren’t bad either. The ensemble was bright, energetic and talented and both vocally and in dance were enjoyable. The actors in the other principal roles, however, never quite reached that extreme level needed to pull off a Mel Brooks’ caricature role. Think of the roles in movies such as “Blazing Saddles” and “Young Frankenstein.” Everyone is just so over the top.

Rachel Abrams (Ulla) was every bit the beautiful, leggy sex bomb. Her singing voice, especially in numbers where she could belt it out, were excellent. But her Swedish accent was inconsistent and at times sounded more like a Southern Belle. She also didn’t quite hit the nuances between Ulla’s innocence (wink, wink) versus her cunning.

Jody Ashworth (Franz Liebkind) also had a wonderful singing voice. However, his German accent was also inconsistent and his presence not as domineering and scary as it should have been. The dancing pigeons in his first scene were a hilarious touch and almost stole the scene.

J. Clayton Winters (Carmen Ghia) and Michael Hawke (Roger De Bris) were also “good” in their roles, but weren’t quite flamboyant and wild enough for a Brooks’ comedy. Especially in the musical, Hawke really needed to ramp up the flame!

Brian Barker’s sets were overall impressive and decorative. The height and depth with which they filled the stage were eye-popping. Combined with Lynn Hartman’s lighting, they were certainly interesting, exciting and professional quality. All, I should say, except for a city-scape background that was used for multiple purposes throughout the show. It wasn’t quite cartoonish nor realistic; and there were problems both with wrinkles in the sky and with the drop swaying every time an actor or stage crew member walked behind it.

Patti D’Beck, who doubled as director and choreographer, did a commendable job of staging the lavish musical. Complete with tap numbers and kick lines, every moment was smooth and interesting. Sue Griffin’s costumes were true to the feel of both the movie and Broadway show; and Derek Dumais’ sound design worked well in the large theater.

The entire staff should be proud of this production of The Producers. Catch it before you have to pay a lot more to see Marks and Wichmann on Broadway.

Photo Gallery

Scott Wichmann, Michael Hawke as Roger De Bris, Jason Marks Scott Wichmann as Leo Bloom and Jason Marks as Max Bialystock
Scott Wichmann, Michael Hawke as Roger De Bris, Jason Marks
Scott Wichmann as Leo Bloom and Jason Marks as Max Bialystock
Scott Wichmann with ensemble Alanna Thomas and Jason Marks
Scott Wichmann with ensemble
Alanna Thomas and Jason Marks
Scott Wichmann and Jason Marks Scott Wichmann, Jody Ashworth as Franz liebkind, Jason Marks
Scott Wichmann and Jason Marks
Scott Wichmann, Jody Ashworth as Franz liebkind, Jason Marks
Jason Marks, Rachel Abrams as Ulla, Scott Wichmann Cast in the finale of Leo and Max's production of 'Springtime for Hitler'
Jason Marks, Rachel Abrams as Ulla, Scott Wichmann
Cast in the finale of Leo and Max’s production of ‘Springtime for Hitler’

Photos by Aaron Sutten

Cast (in order of appearance)

  • The Usherettes: Jacqueline Reynolds, Mary Anne Furey
  • Max Bialystock: Jason Marks
  • Leo Bloom: Scott Wichmann
  • Hold-me Touch-me: Carolyn Meade
  • Mr. Marks: Paul S. Major
  • Franz Liebkind: Jody Ashworth
  • Carmen Ghia: J. Clayton Winters
  • Roger De Bris: Michael Hawke
  • Bryan: Drew Seigla
  • Kevin: Elliott Lau
  • Scott: James Schoppe
  • Shirley: Carolyn Meade
  • Ulla: Rachel Abrams
  • Lick-me Bite-me: Martha Johnson
  • Kiss-me Feel-me: Laura Bland
  • Jack Lepidus: Christopher M. Stewart
  • Donald Dinsmore: Neil Rushnock
  • Jason Green: Garrett Henson
  • Lead Tenor: Drew Seigla
  • Sergeant: Drew Seigla
  • O’Rourke: Christopher M. Stewart
  • O’Riley: Paul S. Major
  • O’Houlihan: Josh Marin
  • Bailiff: Drew Seigla
  • Judge: Paul S. Major
  • Foreman of Jury: Christopher M. Stewart
  • Trustee: Elliott Lau
  • The Ensemble: Laura Bland, Mary Anne Furey, Lauren Marie Hafner, Garrett Henson, Martha Johnson, Elliot Lau, Paul S. Major, Josh Marin, Brittany Martin, Carolyn Meade, Jacqueline Reynolds, Neil Rushnock, James Schoppe, Drew Seigla, Christopher M. Stewart, Alanna S. Thomas

Crew

  • Director and Choreographer: Patti D’Beck
  • Assistant Choreographers: Valerie Acetta, J. Clayton Winters, Marissa Guida/li>
  • Musical Supervisor: Douglas Minerd
  • Associate Musical Supervisor: Ben Miller
  • Scenic Designer: Brian C. Barker
  • Lighting Designer: Lynne M. Hartman
  • Costume Designer: Sue Griffin
  • Sound Designer: Derek Dumais
  • Stage Manager: Wendy Vandergrift

Disclaimer: Virginia Rep Theatre provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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is by day a Special Education teacher, teaching History, Science and drama to Middle and High School students in a private Day School in Stafford. He has degrees in Educational Media and Special Education. He is also a part time Radio News Anchor and occasional actor in the Richmond area. Bruce is a native of New Jersey and spent most of his "adult" life in Upstate New York, where he started and ran a national award winning youth theater and cable television program for over 10 years. He has lived in Virginia since 2002, and in Caroline County since 2005, where he is active in many community groups; including serving on the Board of Caroline's Promise.

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