By Matthew M. Robare
The Theater Company of Saugus’ performance of Mel Brooks’ “The Producers” opens November 9 at 8:00 p.m. in the Saugus High School auditorium. The musical, which premiered in 2001, won 12 Tony Awards and was based on the 1968 film of the same name starring Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder. A film version of the musical—starring Matthew Broderick, Nathan Lane, Uma Thurman, and Will Ferrell— was made in 2005.
“I’m 95% sure it’s never been done on the North Shore by community theater,” said Joanne Fafard, the show’s director. “It’s probably one of our largest undertakings.”
“It’s been pretty good,” Stage Manager Jessica Stockton said of rehearsals. “We have our moments, as every production does, but we move forward with whatever we have and just hope for the best.”
Set in 1959, the play is about struggling Broadway producer Max Bialystock (David Giagrando) and unhappy accountant Leo Bloom (Gregory Cushing). While doing Max’s books, Bloom discovers that since the IRS wouldn’t be interested in a flop, a producer could raise more money on a flop and then when it closed early pocket the extra money. Bialystock convinces Bloom to help him do the fraud, and they find the worst play they can, a pro-Nazi musical called “Springtime for Hitler,” written by Franz Liebkind (Bobby Imperato), and they hire the worst director they can, the flamboyantly gay Roger DeBris (Nick Raponi).
Musical Director Brian Nickerson said the music was not easy to play: “It’s mile-a-minute, loony tune, very cartoon-style. Everything’s up-tempo—it’s very, very challenging to keep it together, to learn the parts, to have everyone…coordinate…”
“As producer you are definitely the one making sure that things are going to plan, you make sure everyone is doing their job,” said Amanda Allen, the producer of “The Producers.” “I make sure that everybody is staying within budget, which is a big thing, especially with a big show like this. It’s a huge undertaking. Rights alone are pretty expensive. And then you get the costumes and you want to make sure they’re as grand as possible, and when people come to see the show they expect Broadway pizzaz, so you want to make sure everything’s up to par.”
“Especially with a hall this large, filling up with some of the electronic instruments—you know, amped keyboards and a very powerful drummer—so they are doing a lot of work with miking the individual leads and we’ve been doing a lot of work with projecting the ensemble, getting them really loud,” Nickerson said. “They’ve been working really hard on that.”
“I’m hoping for ‘swift movements’ is what I always say,” Stockton said. “A good audience—a responsive audience, for everyone to enjoy the show, for the cast to have fun up there and show everyone they are enjoying what they’re doing.”
“It’s been a long, tiring haul,” Nickerson said. “With the community theater, they’re doing it because they want to do it, not because they went to school for it or getting paid for it.”
Fafard said she expected some controversy. “It’s all in how you take the show,” she said. “It’s definitely an R-rated show; it’s not a children’s or a family show, so you always have those concerns.”
There will be five shows in addition to the opening night one: a matinee at 2:00 p.m. on November 10, an 8:00 show on November 10, 8:00 p.m. shows on November 16 and 17, and a final matinee at 2:00 p.m. on November 18. Tickets are $20 or $15 for seniors and students.
The Theater Company of Saugus is also doing a raffle, with $5 tickets and a drawing to be held at the final show on November 18. The prizes include a DVD, a record from the 1968 film, a script, a Broadway cast recording, and a CD sleeve signed by Mel Brooks.