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A CurtainUp NJ Review
The Producers

I'm not going into the toilet, I'm going into show business — Leo Bloom
ichael Kostroff, Ashley Spencer, David Josefsberg photo credit: Jerry Dalia
As The Producers makes its naughty way from overture to curtain call, one is forced to think back and wonder if bad taste has ever been put on display as outrageously and as hilariously as it is in Mel Brook's multi award-winning musical adaptation of his now classic film. That it may have risen in the annals of American musical theater as one of the two most irreverent farces of all time leaves me to ponder the name of the show that actually gets that number one title spot. Since no title springs to mind, let's just say The Producers gets my vote. Just know, if you don't already, that each and every one of this show's irreverently stereotyped major and minor characters is a monument to political and social incorrectness and that every situation is a testament to the now time honored shameless brilliance of its creator- author- composer-lyricist.

Once you settle down to laughing at almost everything that transpires in the show as well as in the infamous show within the show in, you can begin to appreciate the artistry that has gone into this stupendous production at the Paper Mill Playhouse. Over the years, many terrific performers have followed the lauded originators of the two principal roles— Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick. Now a superb Michael Kostroff is Max Bialystock the luckless impresario of a string of Broadway flops. In his manner and style, he made me think I could be watching Brooks himself on stage.

This is not to suggest that Brooks could actually do what Kostroff is doing in either in song, dance or shtick, but there is the undeniable essence of Brooks in his interpretation. The hugely talented Kostroff is making his fourth appearance at the Paper Mill but is probably best known for his five year stint on HBO's The Wire. He has a better than decent voice and although much less manic than Lane was, lands every joke and careens through the inanity with comical dexterity.

David Josefsberg, as the nebbish/nervous accountant Leo Bloom confirms that he's no second banana right from the get-go, in the exuberantly antic " We Can Do It" in which he allows himself to be conned by Bialystock into becoming his partner in producing a money-making flop. Josefsberg is also endearingly nimble when he puts on his dancing shoes. He continues in full throttle in the next scene in the accounting office in which he imagines himself as a producer flanked by a bevy of chorus girls who magically emerge out of the office cabinets. It is cleverly staged, as is the riotous furniture-bounding song and dance in which he is seduced by the gorgeous, blonde, sexy and very Swedish and even more nimble Ulla, as played by the terrific Ashley Spencer.

No production of The Producers succeeds without a memorable collection of outstanding farceurs. Here they include Kevin Pariseau, as the garishly gay director Roger DeBris, Mark Price as his prancing and posing partner Carmen Ghia. The wonderful John Tracy Egan was in his own demented world as the Nazi Franz Lieblind whose script for " Springtime for Hitler" is turned into the musical's purposely offensive centerpiece.

This production is as close to the Broadway version as it is ever going to get.Bill Burns has re-created Susan Stroman's original choreography, and Don Stephenson has masterfully recreated Stroman's original direction. The recreated costume designs by William Ivey Long remain knock-outs. The scenery, based on Robin Wagner's still striking original designs, glitters under the lighting design by John Lasiter. Musical direction by James Moore was splendid as was the sound design by Randy Hansen.

The Producers continues to strike me as one of the funniest shows in my lifetime. Winner of last season's Tony Award for Best Regional Theater, the Paper Mill Playhouse has started their new season with a smash.

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The Producers
Book by Mel Brooks & Thomas Meehan
Music and Lyrics by Mel Brooks
Directed by Don Stephenson (based on original direction by Susan Stroman)
Cast of Principals: Michael Kostroff (Max Bialystock), David Josefsberg (Leo Bloom), John Treacy Egan (Franz Liebkind), Mark Price (Carmen Ghia), Kevin Pariseau (Roger De Bris), Ashley Spencer (Ulla)
Scenery: Robin Wagner
Costumes: William Ivey Long
Lighting Design: John Lasiter
Sound Design: Randy Hansen
Production Stage Manager: Gary Mickelson
Music Director: James Moore
Choreography: Bill Burns (based on original choreography by Susan Stroman)
Running Time: 2 hours 45 minutes including intermission
Paper Mill Playhouse, Brookside Drive, Millburn, N.J.
(973) 376 - 4343
Tickets: From $32.00
Performances: Wednesday at 7:30 Thursday at 1:30 pm and 7:30 pm, Friday at 8 pm, Saturday at 1:30 pm and 8 pm, and Sunday at 1:30 pm and 7 pm.
From 09/28/16 Opened 10/02/16 Ends 10/23/16
Review by Simon Saltzman based on performance 10/02/16

NJ Theaters
NJ Theatre Alliance
Discount Tix Information

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