Candlelight Pavilion Dinner Pavilion undertakes one of its biggest and most ambitious musicals to date, Mel Brooks’ multiple Tony-winning The Producers, and the result is another Candlelight crowd-pleaser filled with laughter, music, and dancing galore.
Jamie Snyder is Broadway flop-master Max Bialystock and Bobby Collins is Leo Bloom, the nebbishy accountant who accidentally gives Max the most inspired scheme of his theatrical career—to produce the worst show in Broadway history, one so stinkingly bad that it is sure to close even before the final curtain, after which the duo can escape to Rio with every last cent of the $2,000,000 invested in the flop. (As the show is set in 1959, that’s over $15,000,000 in today’s moola!)
Fans of the Broadway musical—with songs by Brooks and book by Brooks and Thomas Meehan—will delight in its many show-stopping production numbers choreographed on Broadway by five-time Tony winner Susan Stroman, whose direction and choreography is recreated quite marvelously at Candlelight by (respectively) Brian Thomas Barnhart and Pavilion treasure Janet Renslow. Among those highlights:
•“I Wanna Be A Producer,” which has Leo’s Kafkaesque accounting office transformed in his imagination into a Broadway stage by a bevy of statuesque, leggy showgirls.
•“Keep It Gay,” starring the queeniest gaggle of Broadway luminaries ever (director Roger DeBris, his “common-law assistant” Carmen Ghia, set designer Bryan, costume designer Kevin, choreographer Scott, and butch lesbian Shirley Markowitz), who keep it gay times six.
•“Along Came Bialy,” which fills the Candlelight Pavilion with a stageful of the oldest ladies ever seen dancing, marking time with their walkers, and proving you’re never too elderly to kick up your Dr. Scholl heels.
•“Springtime For Hitler,” lovingly recreated from the original ’67 flick with bevy of Miss Germanys adorned with giant pretzels, beer steins and sausages atop their heads, goose-stepping Nazis, a Busby Berkley-style dancing swastika … and these unforgettable lyrics sung straight-faced by a perhaps not-so-straight German soldier/tenor: “It’s springtime for Hitler and Germany, winter for Poland and France. We’re marching to a faster pace. Look out, here comes the master race.”
•“Prisoners Of Love,” the grand finale, which spotlights a bevy of singing/dancing convicts, half of them shapely, scantily-clad female inmates.
The multitalented Snyder returns entertainingly to the stage as the bold and brassy Max, whose Act Two showcase, “Betrayed,” has the one-time self-described “King Of Broadway” synopsizing the entire plot of the first two plus hours of the show in barely 4½ minutes, with excerpts from nearly every song and bits of dialog thrown in to boot.
Nerd-next-door Collins is cast to perfection as Leo, his comedic shtick (remember Gene Wilder/Matthew Broderick’s “I’m wet! I’m wet! I’m hysterical and I’m wet! I’m in pain! And I’m wet! And I’m still hysterical!”) and onstage chemistry with Snyder both winners.
Stanton Kane Morales makes for a hilariously flamboyant Roger DeBris, a character whose twenty minutes on stage are rich in comedy and camp. (Appearing first in a rhinestone-studded evening gown and hat, Roger proclaims “I’m supposed to be the Grand Duchess Anastasia, but I think I look more like the Chrysler Building.”) Later on, Morales earns laughter and cheers as a singing Hitler who almost makes Liberace seem butch.
The utterly adorable Emerson Boatwright’s Carmen Ghia makes for an absolutely common-law spouse for Roger; Laura Thatcher is blonde-bombshell-errific as Swedish secretary Ulla Inga Hansen Benson Yansen Tallen Hallen Svaden Swanson, her delicious “When You’ve Got It, Flaunt It” one of the evening’s show-stoppingest numbers; and Danny Blaylock is outrageously funny as Franz Liebkind, the pigeon-loving author of the neo-Nazi “masterpiece” Springtime For Hitler, A Gay Romp With Adolf And Eva At Berchtegaden, whether singing and dancing “Der Guten Tag Hop-Clop” or belting out “Have You Ever Heard The German Band?”
The Producers is known for having some of the busiest and most complicated “tracks” (i.e. the multiple roles that each ensemble member plays) in any musical, ever, which puts the supporting cast through the workout of a lifetime—one which they pull off with nary a hitch.
Executing as many as fourteen roles each are The Producers’ tiptop ensemble of triple-threats: John Paul Batista (Workman, Scott, Stalin), Marius Beltran (Little Wooden Boy), Marie Gutierrez (Usherette), Max Herzfeld (Kevin, Judge), Amanda Knight (Shirley Markowitz), Gabriel Navarro (Brian, Convict), Jessie Parmelee, Steven Rada (Jason, Convict), Janissa Saracino (Usherette, Hold Me-Touch Me), Jabriel Shelton (Unhappy Soloist, Churchill), dance captain Libby Snyder, Rachel Solorio, Katherine Tracy (Lick Me-Bite Me), Susanna Vaughan (Kiss Me-Feel Me), and most prominently of all, the silver-throated Andrew Wade (Springtime and Storm Trooper Soloist, Blind Violinist, Marks, and Wandering Minstrel)
Under Robert Hoyt’s expert musical direction, the entire cast vocalize harmoniously to prerecorded tracks. Steve Giltner lights scenic designer James Gruessing’s sets (provided by Palos Verdes Performing Arts),The Theatre Company’s costumes (coordinated by Merrill Grady and Karen Curry), and Mary Warde’s wigs quite dazzlingly.
Darcie Roberts Magino is associate choreographer and Carlos Ferrusca assistant to the choreographer.
With great big Broadway classics like Evita and West Side Story and the more recent smash In The Heights just three of the upcoming highlights of Candlelight Pavilion’s “30 Years Of Fine Dining & Musical Theater” Pearl Anniversary season, The Producers seems likely to be one of Candlelight’s biggest smashes ever.
Max and Leo are surely smiling down from Broadway heaven wishing they could be there for dinner and a show!
Candlelight Pavilion, 455 W. Foothill Blvd., Claremont.
March 1, 2015
Photos: John Lalonde