Über the top
by Michael Dresdner
|Roger DeBris (Dorset) and ensemble All photos by Tim Johnson|
|Bialystock (Wolff) and Bloom (Johnson)|
Max Bialystock (Chap Wolff, standing in last night for Brad Cerenzia) is a once mighty Broadway producer who, of late, has slid into a string of flops. But when dweeby accountant Leo Bloom (Will Johnson) suggests he could make more money by over-subscribing a play, as long as it is guaranteed to fail on opening night, the two set out to get rich.
|Franz Liebkind (Sinclair)|
They find the worst script, a sympathetic musical about Adolph Hitler written by a loony, pigeon-loving, Nazi sympathizer named Franz Liebkind (Kyle Sinclair). Next, they hire the worst director available, a flagrantly swish, cross-dressing hack named Roger DeBris (Henry Talbot Dorset) whose constant shadow is his equally outré gay lover/aide Carmen Ghia (Erik Davis).
|Front: Bialystock (Wolff), DeBris (Dorset), Bloom (Johnson), Rear: Carmen Ghia (Davis) and ensemble.|
Once they have a sure-fire flop lined up, a musical called Springtime for Hitler, Bialystock starts to court his stable of rich, lustful, old women investors to cover ten times the actual production costs. Max calls them not by their names, but with an epithet describing what they demand in exchange for checks, like the short, coy Hold Me Touch Me (Betzy Miller), who crafts hilarious sexual fantasies to subject him to.
|L to R: Svaden Svanson (Ewerz), Bialystock (Wolff), Bloom (Johnson)|
But even before auditions start, who should show up but a classic, drop-dead-gorgeous Swedish blonde bombshell named Ulla Inga Hansen Benson Yonsen Tallen-Hallen Svaaden-Svanson (Hayley Ewerz). They hire her on the spot as both actress and office help.
It all goes wrong when the opening night critics see it not as crassly tasteless, but wonderfully camp. The play is a hit, and the fraudulent producers end up in prison.
|Bloom (Johnson) with ensemble and Hold Me Touch Me (Betzy Miller -- far right)|
Small wonder the play is a hit. We get to see it in act two, staged by a large, extraordinarily talented ensemble cast. From dancing pigeons to a geriatric Zimmer frame hoedown, the whole musical-within-a-musical bursts forth in a fast-paced, non-stop explosion of colorful, high-stepping absurdity that fills every inch of the theater. For the audience, it’s a veritable three-ring-circus of fun.
As for the cast, I hardly know where to start. The leads were all amazing, but then so was the entire ensemble. What do you say when absolutely everyone deserves a call-out for excellence? There simply are not enough superlatives to do them justice.
And let’s not forget the crew. An ambitious set by Blake York created a stepped thrust stage protruding from a classic proscenium background, complete with curtain and hidden cubbyholes. Add a dizzying number of hilarious, colorfully eye-searing costumes by Lauren Wells, complex and adroit lighting by Aaron Mohs-Hale, and sound design by Nicolas Roycroft with sound engineer Ed Jacobs. There were acres of creative props and wigs on this one, all thanks to Jeffery Weaver. And let’s not forget the stunt coach, Cara Hall, dance captain/cast member Kira Leigh Vega, and making this monstrously complex play run smoothly, stage manager Heather Hinds and ASMs Calvin Beekmand and D J Johnson.
There’s no way I can convey this experience in mere words, so please, trust me; go see it.
June 7 to July 7, 2019