Eugene Weekly : Theater : 3.26.2009


A Nazi Hoedown?
Laughing ‘til you cry at The Producers
by Anna Grace

The Producers is offensive on every level. It makes fun of the theater and its artists. The script objectifies women, stereotypes homosexuals, makes light of genocide and even includes singing Nazi pigeons. 

Leo (Anthony McCarthy) and Max (Bruce McCarthy) do whatever Franz (Mark Innocenti) wants

Naturally, upon leaving the Actors Cabaret of Eugene after opening night, I immediately called my mother and told her she had to get a ticket. 

ACE makes a perfect choice in staging Mel Brooks’ fabulously inappropriate musical. The plot is so outrageous, the jokes so clever and well-placed, even the most tightly wound goody-goody finds herself laughing.

The plot: Max Bialystock (Bruce McCarthy) had the biggest name on Broadway until a string of flops (like The Breaking Wind and Funny Boy: Hamlet the Musical) dragged his name into the dirt. Now, a rented tux and a lap full of aged widows rather than gorgeous show girls has him down. When nervous, nerdly accountant Leo Bloom (Anthony McCarthy) suggests that a flop could make more money than a hit, the two are off on an adventure to find the worst script, the worst director and the worst actors in New York. They think they’ve struck gold with the play Springtime for Hitler: A Gay Romp with Adolf and Eva at Berchtesgaden.

Bruce McCarthy has found his signature role in Max Bialystock. With perfect timing and priceless double takes, he creates a completely endearing old ass. Playing opposite as Leo Bloom is his son, Anthony McCarthy. Young McCarthy has a lovely voice and plenty of energy though he has not yet mastered his father’s subtlety. Charming, big-voiced Rachel O’Malley delights with a rockin’ Ulla. Flaming director Roger De Bris (Mark Van Beever) leads an entourage of similarly minded young theatrical professionals in a plea to “Keep it Gay” at the theater. Our table was in hysterics by the middle of many songs. 

Some aspects of the show are still rough. The choreography is spotty, with a few fabulous pieces (horny old ladies tap-dancing with their walkers) but a series of numbers that are flat and repetitive. Lindsey Cooper may have been doing the best she could with the strip of stage the actors must negotiate at ACE and a good chunk of chorus members suffering from a lack of agility, but the musical was brought down by dance numbers that should have been cut short, or just cut.

In the end, this is exactly the sort of show we like to see at ACE: big, flashy, doesn’t take itself seriously for one minute. Few theaters could so convincingly pep up the Nazi salute with jazz hands. Director Joe Zingo provides us with a great set and fabulous costumes, and a typical ACE chorus of all ages and shapes enjoying themselves reminds audience members to do the same.

For those of us raised on Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein, this script rates with the best of Mel Brooks. To quote the play itself: “It was shocking, outrageous, and insulting … and I loved every minute of it!” 

The Producers continues through April 25 at ACE. Tix at or 683-4368.