'The Producers' keeps new and returning audiences laughing with lovable story and cast

Review: The Tony-winning show comes to the Syracuse OnCenter, where the magic of the original Broadway show shines through despite script changes.

As musical theater fans would likely tell you, The Producers is one of the funniest musicals of the 21st century. Written by Mel Brooks, the musical was adapted from his 1968 film into a 2001 Broadway musical. Starring Nathan Lane as Max Bialystock and Matthew Broderick as Leo Bloom, the musical won three Olivier awards and a record-breaking twelve Tony awards.

Photo: Kathy Hua

Considering the magnificence of its original Broadway run and the chemistry between Lane and Broderick as its two leads, it is understandable that audiences would be concerned about the new cast that opened at the OnCenter Crouse Hinds Theater on Tuesday. Nevertheless, a large, well-dressed crowd appeared in search of entertainment and laughs. Although it may be difficult to replicate the dynamic energy that Lane and Broderick shared, the two leads were certainly up for the challenge. This, combined with the excellent supporting cast, choreography and set design, led to a seamless, hilarious night for everyone involved.

The show opens with Max Bialystock, a Broadway producer, recovering from yet another flop. Enter Leo Bloom, a shy, nervous accountant hired by Bialystock to count his books. When Bloom inadvertently reveals that, under the right circumstances, producing a flop would bring in a bigger profit than a success, the two form a scheme to produce the worst play ever written.

David Johnson portrays the money-hungry, dramatic, yet still ultimately lovable Bialystock in the same vein as Lane, but just different enough to make him distinguishable. Richard LaFleur, meanwhile, provides an excellent example of the frantic, awkward energy that playing Leo Bloom requires. Other standout performances include Jessica Ernest as Ulla, Bialystock and Bloom’s secretary/receptionist, and Thomas Slater as Franz Leipkind, the playwright of the outrageous show within the show.

Along with the cast, the technical aspects of the show soar. The show keeps the original Tony-winning choreography by Susan Stroman, lending visual appeal to musical numbers such as “I Wanna Be a Producer” and “Keep It Gay.”

Meanwhile, the sets, costumes, and lighting are all superb, helping the show look as vibrant and dynamic as its excellent score is.

These elements aside, the most important aspect of this show is the story itself, which shines throughout the evening. From the laughably insensitive play Bialystock and Bloom produce to the brief, meaningful moments of romance and true friendship, it is the story that intrigues new viewers and keeps returning audiences coming back for more.

Despite the show’s many successes, longtime fans of the musical might be disappointed by a few tweaks to the original script, such as the cutting of the numbers “You Never Say Good Luck on Opening Night,” “Where Did We Go Right?” and “Betrayed.” However, the show is still enjoyable and a must-see for anyone who enjoys musical theater and irreverent comedy.

The show is running until Oct. 29. Tickets are available at the OnCenter Box Office (435-2121), Famous Artists (424-8210) and Ticketmaster (800-745-3000). Prices range from $32 to $62.

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