MILLBURN, NJ – Yes, it’s "Springtime for Hitler" in the Paper Mill Playhouse zany production of “The Producers.”
The show was a big Broadway hit with Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick a few seasons ago and has been given a fast-paced reprise under the direction of Don Stephenson. The original Mel Brooks movie with Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder became a cult classic. Then Brooks had the bright idea to turn it into a musical, with direction and choreography by Susan Stroman. Brooks wrote the music and lyrics and, in collaboration with Thomas Meehan, the book as well.
Michael Kostroff plays Max Blaystock, who has his own resemblance to Brooks. He’s the scheming producer who seems to put out one clunker after another. His most recent is “Funny Boy,” a musical based on “Hamlet.” But when the accountant, Leo Bloom, enters his office, his luck changes. Bloom says he can make more money with a flop than with a hit, which gives them both the idea to do something outrageous. That, of course, results in “Springtime for Hitler,” with Ziegfeld Follies-like chorus girls, a high stepping cast dressed as Nazis or German peasants and other outlandish ideas. Some of the chorus girl getups include giant hats with sausages, pretzels, beer steins and other traditional German touches.
The whole thing is over the top, including the gay director and his assorted team. Kostroff makes a good, bluff Max and David Josefsberg as Leo is an excellent foil. He’s just nerdy enough to be pathetic and still can’t let go of what’s left of his baby blanket.
But when they both meet the gorgeous Ashley Spencer as the Swedish Ulla, life changes even more. Leo is immediately smitten as Max rushes off to collect more money from Little Old Lady Land. Spencer is delightful in the role, including her accent. Some of the numbers are tasteless, especially using walkers as props, but since practically everything is brash and ‘politically incorrect,’ it really doesn’t matter.
Kevin Pariseau is a hoot as Roger DeBris, the gay director, with a big assist from Mark Price as Carmen Ghia. John Treacy Egan as Franz Liebkind, the German actor/soldier, is priceless.
Choreography by Bill Burns is smashing, costumes by Martha Bromelmeier are scintillating and Robin Wagner’s scenic design, based on the original, keeps the action moving.
The second act is a little on the long side and most of the songs aren’t really memorable. “That Face” has a charming appeal, but most of the music is centered on the show itself.
“The Producers” continues at the Paper Mill Playhouse, 22 Brookside Drive in Millburn through Oct. 23. For tickets, call 973-376-4343 or visit PaperMill.org.