The laughs get started early in the Paramount Theatre’s hilarious production of “The Producers.”
While faithful to the 2001 musical adapted by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan from Brooks’ 1967 film of the same name, this incarnation brings new energy and exuberance to the show. That shouldn’t surprise anybody, given that it’s being directed by Paramount Theatre artistic director Jim Corti.
Corti already has proved he is up to the task by staging three consecutive Jeff Award winners for best production of a large musical at the Paramount – “Les Misérables,” “West Side Story” and “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.” There’s a reason the Paramount is now the second-largest subscription house in the nation.
For those not familiar with the story of “The Producers,” it revolves around failing producer Max Bialystock and accountant Leo Bloom, who scam a group of elderly women out of their nest eggs by persuading them to invest in a horrendously offensive Third Reich-themed musical secretly intended to bomb the moment it opens.
But when high-brow Broadway audiences mistakenly assume “Springtime for Hitler” is a satire, Bialystock finds himself with the critical acclaim that long eluded him – and the biggest hit of his career.
The production contains plenty of standout performances, most notably from Blake Hammond and Jake Morrissy, who play Bialystock and Bloom, respectively. The audience is able to see the friendship that blossoms between the two of them along with the transformation of Bloom from a shy accountant to someone with a personality as big as Bialystock’s.
Corti is able to zero in on the fact that “The Producers” is at heart a story about two buddies.
Ron Rains, who was part of the cast in the Paramount’s “Cabaret,” turns in a hilarious performance as Franz Liebkind, who pens the musical tribute to his beloved Fuehrer, “Springtime for Hitler,” that Bialystock and Bloom want to stage. And a song-and-dance scene featuring Rains’ character Liebkind is made all the more entertaining by his dancing pigeons.
Although the production features mostly bawdy humor, there are also genuinely sweet scenes, such as when Morrissy serenades the character Ulla – played by Paramount newcomer Elyse Collier – as part of the song “That Face.”
Big, bold sets – a centerpiece of any Paramount production – add to the excitement on the stage.
And in a move that again demonstrates that the Paramount Theatre is willing to break new ground, when Liebkind can’t play Hitler in “Springtime for Hitler,” he is replaced by the openly gay theater director Roger DeBris. The zinger is that DeBris is played by Sean Blake, who is African-American.
This is one production you don’t want to miss.
The Paramount this month announced the lineup for the 2019-20 season, which will offer “Newsies,” “Beauty and the Beast,” a world premiere of “The Secret of My Success” and “Kinky Boots.” Broadway Series packages start at $72; single tickets go on sale in June. Capping the current season will be the world premiere of “August Rush,” opening April 24.
If you go
WHAT: “The Producers” musical
WHERE: Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd., downtown Aurora
WHEN: Wednesday through Sunday until March 17
COST: $36 to $69
INFO: paramountaurora.com, 630-896-6666