By PAM HARBAUGH
It may be filled with esoteric Broadway humor, but Titusville Playhouse lets an entire audience in on the jokes in its laugh-a-minute 50th season opener, “The Producers.”
Written by Mel Brooks, the stage musical is based on his original 1967 movie. It concerns unscrupulous Broadway producer Max Bialystock who teams up with hapless account Leo Bloom. Their scheme is to score a cool million by creating a Broadway flop. The musical they choose is the tasteless “Springtime for Hitler.”
This is a big, complex show with frequent scenic shifts and layers of action. Here, director Alexander Nathan directs it adroitly and keeps it zipping along at a dizzying pace. His entire cast draws loveable, broad characters who tell a story filled with nutty situations and rim-shot asides. Mr. Nathan’s restaging of Susan Stroman’s original choreography is clean and tightly on the mark.
Working with music director Michael Coppola, the “I Wanna Be a Producer” is so smartly staged. This is a potentially unwieldy dream scene number that weaves chorus girls in and out of a group of accountants. But Mr. Nathan’s direction keeps it easy and neat while still allowing Leo to lavish the stage with his dream.
Scenic designer Jay Bleakney and lighting designer Samuel G. Byers wisely sticks to establishing location and otherwise gives focus to the cast and their antics. An, oh my, costume coordinator Katy Ball has her hands full with the 160 wonderful costumes.
In the end, though, it is the top-notch cast who own this show.
Seemingly born to play the role of Max Bialystock, Steven J. Heron squeezes every ounce of humor in his energetic, aside-quipping, double-taking performance. A professional actor, Mr. Heron was once cast as the replacement for Max Bialystock in the Broadway run, which, unfortunately, closed before he had a chance to step onto the boards as Max. As artistic director for Titusville Playhouse, Mr. Heron is used to telling people what to do. Here, he shows them, easily boasting humor, timing and voice, especially in “That Face” and “Betrayed.”
As panic-ridden milquetoast accountant Leo Bloom, professional actor T. Robert Pigott fills the stage with…well, cuteness. From his priceless takes on Leo’s panic attacks to his romantic yearnings for blond bombshell Ulla, Mr. Pigott is nothing less than loveable. In the number “I Wanna Be a Producer, he summons that same winning quality displayed by Robert Morse (“How to Succeed in Business…”) in the early 1960s.
The all-singing, all-dancing Holly McFarland brings a refreshing take on Ulla. Always on the mark, she empowers her Ulla with a smart sexiness shown vividly in the number “When You’ve Got It, Flaunt It.” It’s a joy to see Ms. McFarland take the stage in this big show.
Another professional, Mark Hardin, dishes the delicious in his performance of over the top director Roger DeBris. He is a treat.
Joseph Rose delivers a funny Teutonic edge to Franz Liebkind, the playwright for “Springtime for Hitler.”
With “The Producers,” Titusville Playhouse mounts a splendid production; evocative of the early ‘60s style Broadway musical comedies. Think ‘Bye Bye Birdie’ in 1961, ‘How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying’ in 1962 and ‘Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum’ in 1963.
There is so much fun here. You’ll want to see it twice, so get your tickets now.
SIDE O GRITS: “The Producers” performs 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays and 2 p.m. There is one more Saturday matinee, 2 p.m. Sept. 20. Tickets are $22 to $25 with $2 discounts for seniors, military and students. Service charges may apply. Titusville Playhouse performs at the Emma Parrish Theatre, 301 Julia St., Titusville. Call 321-268-1125 or visit www.TitusvillePlayhouse.com.