How do you keep The Producers fresh after a 1960's movie, a hit Broadway musical and a movie of the musical? Well, it is all in the "coesting," as Ulla would say. The latest production of Mel Brooks mega hit, which opened Wednesday at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire, certainly has not made any missteps in the casting departing, starting with Ross Lehman and Guy Adkins as Bialystock and Bloom.
Put any thoughts of Nathan Lane and Mathew Broderick out of your mind, and judging by the younger skew of the audience in attendance on opening night, Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder are not even on the radar. Lehman, who is a beloved fixture at Chicago's Shakespeare Theatre, brings more of a Richard Dreyfuss quality to his Max. (Dreyfuss never quite made it to opening the London production.) This works much better in the Marriott's theatre in the round setting. Lehman projects a businessman-like quality to Max which comes across as a much more believable portrayal of the character than the fatty fat fat buffoonery of Lane or Mostel.
Guy Adkins is the best Leo Bloom I have seen. He has made a very difficult part his own. Broderick never quite found his own stride in either the stage or film, yet from the moment Adkins utters "scared, can't talk," Adkins and Bloom are merged. The audience really feels the bond between Max and Leo and the chemistry between Lehman and Adkins is real.
It is when the supporting characters come on, scene and after scene that The Producers really takes off. Michael Linder, who is a vundervul zinger und danzer and a previous guest on Stage Door Chicago, is hilarious as Franz Liebkind. Straight off from playing the villain in It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's Superman, Bernie Yvon keeps it "gayer" than ever as Roger Debris along side George Keating as his fabulous assissssssssstant Carmen Gia. There were many a man in the audience giving Angela Feeney's, Ulla, a standing ovation.
Under the musical direction of Richard Carsey, some of the numbers, especially Max's, seemed extremely under tempo. This greatly effected Lehman's "Betrayed" which is suppose to build to a rapid, out of breath ending, but instead loses its momentum halfway though the number.
Marc Robin's direction and choreography are right on point. As with Susan Stoman, who did the same double duty on Broadway and in the film, this seems to be the formula to make this show work as the dance numbers are so intertwined with the action.
For more information, including show times and ticket prices, visit www.marriotttheatre.com or call the Marriott Theatre Box office at (847) 634-0200.