'The Producers' promises big show at the Bradley

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Putnam - posted Tue., Jul. 26, 2011
Tom Weber and Paul Smith rehearse as Max and Leo, the leads in 'The Producers.' Photos by D. Coffey.
Tom Weber and Paul Smith rehearse as Max and Leo, the leads in 'The Producers.' Photos by D. Coffey.

The cast and crew of “The Producers” brought an otherwise quiet Bradley Playhouse alive on July 24. They were rehearsing for what many believe is the most ambitious production the Playhouse has staged.

The musical is about a producer and his accountant who scheme to get rich by selling interests in a Broadway show that is sure to bomb. Co-director Scott Guerin said it is certainly the biggest production the Bradley has put on. “This show is huge,” he said. “It challenges us to bring it to the next level. It's a huge undertaking.”

It cost $30,000 to put on the production. From the six fly bars that will bring in six different sets during the course of the play, to the ensemble of 20, the show pushes the envelope in every sense of the word.

The interactive sets were purchased from a community theater in Massachusetts. There are tank costumes that actually fire, file cabinets big enough to hold dancers and costume change after costume change.

“Northeastern Connecticut is blessed to have community theater and the actual space of the Bradley, with its horseshoe balcony,” Guerin said. “We have tremendous singers and dancers and actors. The show is going to be huge in laughs and enjoyment.”

Tom Weber, who plays producer Max Bialystock, loved the irreverence of the script. “Mel Brooks got away with making fun of everyone,” Weber said. “And he made everyone laugh. There are 25 tunes, fantastic dancing, stupid jokes and interactive scenery,” he said, laughing. “People will love it.”

Paul Smith said the show will be a great introduction to musical theater for people unfamiliar with it. Smith is the Bolton Superintendent by day, and the mild mannered accountant Leo Bloom by night. “Mel Brooks was a great writer,” he said. “There's one funny line after another.”

Smith takes advantage of his summer schedule to keep his hand in community theater. “It's great to play someone different from yourself,” he said.

“The talent is unbelievable,” said Tammie LaBonte, who plays a sexy office worker who falls for Leo. “This is a most ambitious show for the Bradley. The sets are amazing. It's a big production. It has entertainment from beginning to end.”

Jason Musko said he has never seen such a sophisticated, multilayered set. “It's kind of a breakthrough production for the Bradley,” he said. “It's something the community hasn't seen before.”

Musko plays the character of Roger DeBris, a gay Broadway director. “He is terrible and he is celebrated as one of the worst directors in the city. That's why they want him to stage the show.”

DeBris' assistant, Carmen Ghia, is played by Nicholas Magrey. “He thinks he's Donna Reed, and he's unapologetic,” said Magrey, who thinks the play is unlike any other musical. “Mel Brooks offends everyone and knows how to do it correctly. This show is definitely for everyone.”

Sharon Starr and Kathy Wood are just two of the members of the ensemble. Between them, they play 14 different characters. The costume changes are constant, but thankfully only one is quick for Starr. “I have five measures to change from an old lady to the character Shirley in the same song,” she said. Because that minute will pass quickly, Starr will wear one costume under the other for the quick change.

Costumer Claudette White has won rave reviews from cast members for her eye. “She can just look at you and know what you need,” said Wood. “I told her I needed a theater goer outfit and she picked it out and it fit perfectly. I don't know how she thinks of it. She's amazing.”

"The Producers" opens at the Bradley Playhouse on Aug. 5 at 7 p.m.

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