A singing pretzel, , a dance number with walkers and a director in drag all serve to create the fun, zany tone of DramaTech’s latest musical. I have seen every spring musical at DramaTech for the past four years and is certainly the best of them. Full of slapstick antics, witty one-liners and absurd musical numbers, the show maintains its energy until the final bow. DramaTech proves with this show that college productions can be professional quality.
Originating from the creative mind of Mel Brooks, follows the exploits of an accountant and a washed-up Broadway producer who set out to make millions on a scam that involves producing a “guaranteed flop.” Without spoiling the plot for those who are unfamiliar with the musical or the films, it is enough to say that nothing is sacred. Over the course of the musical, it makes fun of just about everyone from Jews to Adolf Hitler.
On the other hand, for those who are familiar with the musical, DramaTech’s latest incarnation feels fresh and new. The songs, dances and dialogue are performed with vigor and creativity, demonstrating that the director didn’t simply watch the movie and use it as her blueprint.
Many of the characters, while maintaining their original spirit, diverge from their movie equivalents, delivering lines with new interpretation. Unfortunately, the momentum of the musical slows down slightly during what should be the show-stopping number, but it quickly picks up again immediately afterwards and the remainder of the performance is infused with vitality.
The music is strong from both the ensemble and the live orchestra, accompanied by amusing choreography that is filled with ridiculous costumes and numerous visual gags. There are some points when the cast struggles with the enunciation of their lines, but they make up for it with their energy and enthusiasm.
The two leads (Leo and Max, played by John Tibbetts and Michael Sullivan) are especially good, resulting in many entertaining scenes. They carry the show not just with the quality of their singing but also with their quirky, bickering interactions that channel Neil Simon’s “The Odd Couple.” Leo fills the role of a compulsive neurotic while Max plays the selfish, slovenly man of loose morals, resulting in an amusing conflict of personalities and ideals.
All six leads were exceptionally well-cast for their roles, each one delivering a different set of laughable, zany antics and hilarious moments. Besides the protagonists, the neurotic accountant and the greedy producer, the show is rounded out by a dumb Swedish blonde (Sally Ahlrich), a cross-dressing director and his assistant (Graham Sweeney and Daniel Wilson) and a pigeon-loving Nazi playwright (Greg Kinsey). These certainly aren’t typical Rogers & Hammerstein stock characters.
The remaining ensemble also shines in this production, unwilling to be overshadowed by the stars. Each cast member has the chance to play many parts and take their turn in giving the audience a good laugh. Furthermore, the orchestra pit gets a line of their own, and even the stage managers get dragged into a few of the scenes, demonstrating that this production is truly a collaborative effort.
Speaking of the stage managers, they deserve a special commendation for their hard work in this musical. At every scene change, they completely transform the set as entire walls are rotated, removed and replaced. The modular, constantly-changing set design is an impressive spectacle to behold, one that really establishes the scale and scope of the work that has gone into this musical. With unique, and sometimes quite outlandish, costumes to accompany every new scene, DramaTech achieves production values that are even better than some professional productions of the same show.
For all you musical skeptics out there, this show is worth breaking your mold. Not only is it excellent in its execution, but it also purposely defies theatrical conventions in ways that are hilarious and refreshingly different. Whether you are a music-lover, a comedy fan, or just someone looking for some good entertainment, you’ll find something worthwhile at The Producers.
It will continue playing at DramaTech for the next two weekends on April 16, 17, 24 and 25. Don’t forget to look for the two cameos of DramaTech’s signature toaster!