WRTI's critic-at-large, Lesley Valdes, reviews the Walnut's production of The Producers, on stage from now until July 19th. The Broadway hit, with music and lyrics by Mel Brooks, garnered 12 Tony Awards in 2001.
Walnut Street Theatre
Now - July 19, 2009
Need fun? Get to the Walnut where Ben Dibble sings and dances a role he was born for: wannabe producer Leo Bloom. And Ben Lipitz is a knockout as Max Bialystock hoping to cook his books with a Broadway flop. We're talking The Producers, as in Mel Brooks. The old gags still work and there are fresh ones in a new production that makes the downright bawdy look smart. Good dancers and tremendous singing actors. Spot on timing. One look at the two Bens together tells they're perfectly cast.
So many showpieces are show stoppers. Dibble's soft shoe rivals his vocalism in "I want to be a producer." Shavey Brown pulls off a fine solo as the singing accountant in the scene of cowering bean counters. "Springtime for Hitler, the gay romp" is grand travesty with Jeremy Webb as the director in drag Robert DeBris. Though it's his assistant Carmen Ghia, that is Robert McClure, who steals every scene she/he zips into. Carmen's infamous hiss is still hissing. McClure comes from the Avenue Q tour. Jeffrey Coon strut it up as Neo Nazi Franz Liebkind, the pigeon keeping author of Springtime, the faux musical. His mock-up of "Old Bavaria" must be seen - and those clever little birds.
Webb is less amazing as Hitler in gold lame. The gargle's got to go. But those looks. That quiver. Die Fuhrer as Merman works. Lipitz has a huge voice that projects every assignment though his solo, "Betrayed," stretches longer than we need.
Leo and Amy Bodnar as Ulla ace the ballroom in both dance numbers: the dreamy "The Face," where the Swedish bombshell takes Bloom's blue blankie and "Leo in Rio" where things sizzle. Marc Robin made the dances. He also directs The Producers. Too bad the theatre doesn't turn down its sound system. Doug Lutz and his band deserve better.