It goes without saying that the vaunted heyday of get-rich-quick schemes involved a world devoid of the Information Superhighway and rather motivated, often rewarded, and, yes, sometimes punished those imbued with time-tested qualities of ingenuity, and, for lack of a better term, moxie. It wouldn’t be easy to find two more mismatched schemers than Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom, one a creative burnout and the other a by-the-book number cruncher, in their misguided attempt to fool the theatrical world rather than win it over. But director Anisa Cameron delivers in fiery fashion, bestowing the gift of the first Yiddish production of The Producers ever seen anywhere to delighted and mesmerized Segal Center audiences. Armed with a set of fabulous lead actors, a passionate ensemble cast, a dynamic band that seems like melodic bookends on either side of the tastefully decorated stage, and you’ve got an irresistible recipe for camp, mayhem, dashed dreams, and musical magic.
Lead actors Sam Stein and Mikey Samra come alive as Max, the flopped Broadway producer looking to cash in and Leo, his somewhat meek and befuddled accountant. They deliver a punchy performance that manages to evoke some level of empathy as well as uproarious laughter from the audience who can either speak fluent Yiddish and are completely in their element or those a little less fluent, who get to follow along with the enriching experience of effective English and French translation supertitles throughout the production.
This is the first time the Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre and the Côte Saint-Luc Dramatic Society have teamed up and the results are nothing short of theatrically spectacular, visually as well as musically stunning, and what amounts to really a whopping ride of satirical splendor. Under the watchful musical direction of Nick Burgess and the charismatic choreography of Jonathan Patterson, this play has something for everyone, from the seasoned theatergoer to the often fervent passion of Yiddish theater enthusiasts to the casual audience member.
On Broadway, the magnificent Mel Brooks’ onstage adaptation of his ingenious 1968 film broke records in most numbers of Tony Awards ever won by a single production and wowed audiences and critics everywhere. Who other than show business veteran and indisputable comedy icon Brooks could more expertly turn camp into class, horrendous into hilarious, and take outrageous stereotypes to heretofore unseen levels of self-parodying glee? Brooks himself has been on the receiving end of many requests to take in the Segal Center production, as one of his career-defining masterpieces has never been attempted to be produced, translated into, and performed in Yiddish in its 15-year onstage run. The results have been rousingly positive, and it might put a proverbial cherry on the figurative professional sundae for Mr. Brooks, at the age of 89, to see what new and exciting direction his iconic theatrical tornado has taken.
The Producers has lessons to teach all of us through its conglomeration of hilarious absurdity, efficacious exploration of ethics and values, and even the beauty of making light of and enjoying what a wondrous romp this journey called life often affords us. It seems impossible to leave the production without a dropped jaw, a wide smile, some residual giggling, and an urge to use your mobile device to tell your friends and family they have until July 10th to get to the Segal Center to see this unique and wonderful musical experience.
Visit www.segalcentre.org for more information.
Photos by Andree Lanthier