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THEATER REVIEW: Hilarity and frivolity abound at The Pollard Theatre with 'The Producers'

The refreshingly politically incorrect musical called “The Producers” opens at the Pollard to a delighted audience. 

Mel Brooks is an American Icon and his original movie of the same name was then adapted to a stage musical by Brooks. The live production from Guthrie, OK, is a professional masterpiece that rivals any other. Max Bialystock remarks early in the piece (to paraphrase) that reviews come out earlier when the critic leaves at intermission. The critic is critical to success or failure.  But how could any critic leave at this intermission?  This critic could not have been budged an inch—the production is perfect!

The musical is about a down and out Broadway producer, Max Bialystock who conspires with a meek accountant to deliberately create a fail-safe failure critics would bash to bits. This is because the in-secure accountant, Leopold Bloom, has realized a flop can make more money than a hit.  The two search for and find a dismal script for such a failure called ‘Springtime For Hitler’ by Franz Liebkind.  The two schemers obtain the rights from the endearingly loyal bird and Nazi-lover.  Bialystock must seduce his prime investors, the elderly wealthy widows looking for love in all the wrong places. And so it begins….and patrons wish it would never end.

One must acknowledge the director for perfect casting.  Matthew Sipress has put together a cast aligned with precision and not a weak link among them. The cliché that there are no small parts, only small actors comes true, because each performer is larger than life working in tandem like a line of goose-stepping Nazi’s each with a twinkle in the eye. A nit-picking critic can always find a weakness; a faltering voice, a quivering kick and a tricky slip—not so in this cast. This ensemble is very diverse, blending together in symbiotic unity.  Sipress also handles the choreography with exceptional physicality; revealing and sensational. In the program it is stated that the original direction and choreography by Susan Stroman is recreated by Matthew Sipress.  It is recreated brilliantly.

Michael James is extraordinarily talented in costuming; his efforts strengthen the piece immeasurably. Musical direction is from Todd S. Malicoate, flawless, as always. Lighting is from the Pollard’s artistic director, W. Jerome Stevenson and he makes everybody look good.

Stevenson looks pretty good himself in the role of Max Bialystock.  Stevenson is the consummate actor, unbelievably talented and obviously a joy for the other actors to work with.  Jared Blount acutely realizes Leo Bloom. The two of them lead the cast into the side-splitting reality that the theatre brings to the community.  The audience comes along for a great ride, laughing with abandon.  Emily Pace is the beautiful Swedish actress, Ulla, and her marvelous character is charming, sexy, and very funny. She is wonderful.  Clayton Blair is Franz Liebkind, the nutty Nazi who originated ‘Springtime For Hitler’ in a whirlpool of fantasy.  Blair delivers an outstanding performance with grace and believability.  Stephen Hilton plays Roger De Bris, the worst director Bialystock and Bloom hire to produce the worst script.  Hilton is extremely accomplished--the best performer for this role, he clearly has a lot of fun, and the audience has a lot of fun with him.  Another talent complementing Hilton’s quality performance comes from Joshua McGowen as Carmen Ghia, the director’s faithful assistant.  McGowen is hysterically funny. 

With all the cares and woes in this divided country how does one justify spending an evening devoted to utter frivolity such as found in “The Producers” at the Pollard?  It’s easy:  there is joy and unity in laughter and that is binding so it may be that our salvation lies in frivolity. Save yourself! Laugh at Hitler cavorting in ‘Springtime For Hitler’ within “The Producers” through May 6, 2017. Curtain is at 8 p.m., parking is pretty easy, restaurants in the area are wonderful, and downtown Guthrie is a short jaunt north on the Interstate.  The bright lights of the Pollard Theatre are at 120 W Harrison. You’ll be there before you know it.  Visit or call 405-282-2800 for tickets and information.  Make your reservations quickly, as a show like this gets sold out faster than even Max Bialystock dreams about.


Bonus Material:

While the space in the paper restricts speaking about ensemble members individually, this blog has unlimited room, so to give credit where credit is due, here is their recognition.

Phoebe Butts is phenomenal in all her cameos, old lady to high-kicking chorus girl, she is the perfect choice in all things singing and dancing. Charlie Monnot is a tenor creating incredible tension in all his roles. Madison Hamilton is wonderful, Cory King is magnificent, Matt Barger is astounding and Ian Paul Cummings is tremendous. These six ensemble players have choice cameo roles that are unforgettable and extremely well executed!

The efforts of Marianne Edwards, Sheri Hayden, Sarah Henry, Donnegal Moore, Emily Paige Cleek, Maurice Simmons and Nicholas Winterrowd should not be overlooked. Each and every one of them takes advantage of their moment to stand out in excellence presenting uniquely special tidbits in “The Producers” every night.


Elizabeth Hurd

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