"The Producers" returned to Los Angeles for three performances this past weekend at the Hollywood Bowl. And during the curtain call at Friday's opening,
"They're almost good," he kidded, which pretty much sums up my appraisal of the production, directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman, whose two Tony wins added to the show's record-breaking haul of 12.
The rushed logistics of producing a big musical at the Bowl didn't allow Stroman to live up to her perfectionist reputation. Microphones were erratic, lines were flubbed, a door refused to open, costume changes hit roadblocks. At one point, after a longish delay,
But even with these snags, "The Producers" demonstrated its extraordinary tickling power. The show, which bridges the distance between Broadway and the Catskills, is awash in jokes that make you either want to laugh or groan. (I'll confess that the older I get, the funnier they seem.)
Brooks isn't vying for membership in the Rodgers & Hammerstein club, but the songs he wrote for "The Producers" have undeniable pep and ingenuity, especially when the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, under the musical direction of conductor Kevin Stites, is going full bore. Yes, the show is a bit overstretched even with the cuts that were somewhat awkwardly made near the end of the show to ensure that the Bowl's curfew would be met. But who can complain when grinning?
The musical, to my surprise, has taken on a surprising relevance. Seeing "The Producers" for the first time since the financial crisis threw the country into recession, I couldn't help marveling at just how incisively the show, in zingy parable form, foreshadowed the greed-induced catastrophe we're digging ourselves out of.
The plot, after all, involves a scheme hatched by Max and his wimpy new bookkeeper, Leo Bloom (
In the meantime, the shtick is more or less foolproof. Alumni from the original Broadway cast, including
Kind, who brought to mind Zero Mostel from the original 1968 film more than
Kind allowed the
The chorus number of old ladies with walkers (Max's harem of geriatric investors) never fails to slay me. So out of gratitude I'll refrain from mentioning
That gag, like most of the routines in "The Producers," is as old as it is irresistible, so how about we save our groaning for the evening news and just appreciate the mirth.