THEATRE REVIEW: Broadway smash hit a smash hit in Vernon

Valley Vocal Arts cast Karen Bliss

Valley Vocal Arts cast Karen Bliss

When she introduced the opening night of the Valley Vocal Arts production of The Producers at Powerhouse Theatre, Melina Moore said she had a hunch that Vernon was ready for Mel Brooks’ raunchy, hilarious comedy. And she was right.

As solo accompanist, she played the electric piano as if she and it were a 40-piece orchestra, keeping her singers on beat and in tune – except for one number when a chorus of wealthy “old hens” who felt more like “hot chicks” sang deliberately off-key to good effect.

When her playing didn’t cover countless fast and efficient scene changes, her talented cast did. For instance, a phone rang in the dark as a disembodied voice called incessantly, “Will somebody answer the phone?” Up came the lights and on minced brilliantly funny Brian Martin as Carmen Ghia, the ever so gay “common-law assistant” of the ever so dreadful Broadway director Roger DeBris (Sean Donley). When Martin pouted, “I’ll get it”  his commitment to his camp turkey trot, sucked in cheeks and pursed lips made his character totally believable. And the audience adored him.

Another scene change was covered imaginatively by several unhappy accountants who brought chairs through the audience to work at the office of Whitehall and Marks, as they sang of their sadness at being under the cruel thumb of harsh Mr. Marks CPA (Terry Bradley).

A third change went on behind a delightful chorus of Nazi Pigeons, played by younger members of the company, led by Moore’s son Justin whose stage presence already reflects that of his parents.

The minimalist set was well-designed and built by multi-skilled Paul Rossetti who also played failed producer Max Bialystock. Rossetti eased more comfortably into his role as the evening progressed and his rendition of Betrayed was a show-stopper. Dave Brotsky’s lighting, depicting the prison bars in that scene, was beautifully effective.

Other technicians deserving of praise are costume designer Sheri Nicholson and her team of builders, Sue Gairns and Vikki Moore.

The entire cast shone throughout the slick, fast-paced performance wittily directed by Melina Moore. But if “Broadway, here I come!” applied to anyone, it was Andrew Nydam as Leo Bloom. (His shy accountant character turns producer and partners with Bialystock in a scheme to put a flop on Broadway and thus make their fortune. But as fortune would have it, they fail and their show becomes a success.)

Nydam managed to maintain that fine line between high comedy and overacting with just the right amount of slapstick balanced by integrity. His attachment to his “blankie” had the audience in stitches, particularly when he was seduced behind the casting couch by delicious blonde Swedish siren, Ulla Inga tor Hansen Benson Yansen Tallen Hallen Svaden Swanson (Karen Bliss).

It seems unfair to single out individuals in such an excellent ensemble production but tap-dancing Lisa Schofield (also choreographer) and Der-Guten-Tag-Hop-Clop-dancing Scott May as Franz Liebkind, as well as the chorus of elderly ladies dancing with their walking frames, can’t go unmentioned.

Although some of the cast varies to give as many Valley Vocal Arts members as possible a chance of performing, audiences are assured of a great night out at Powerhouse Theatre, where The Producers runs until Sunday.

–– Christine Pilgrim is a local actress and freelance reviewer for The Morning Star.