OGDEN — There are times that a show comes along that you think can’t possibly live up to either memories of past productions or of a production that you have seen previously. You can’t imagine that they have the resources, the talent, or the space to really mount a quality production. But every once in a while, you get that wonderful experience of seeing a show that so outshines your expectations that you can’t believe your good fortune. Such is the case with The Ziegfeld Theater’s The Producers.
In this show, a down and out producer conceives a plan to find a play so bad it won’t last past opening night, then raise an outrageous amount of money so that when the show fails, he’ll be rich by pocketing the extra cash. The Producers was originally an Academy Award winning film by Mel Brooks, who years later adapted it to the Tony award winning Broadway musical, after which it was subsequently readapted into a musical film.
This show requires two great actors and comedians in the two lead roles, and Cameron Kapetanov as Max Bialystock and Daniel Pack as Leo Bloom are perfectly matched. There was not a moment when I didn’t feel they were totally committed to the characters. There were several moments in the show where there was a slight mistake or a set piece fell over, and both actors were able to acknowledge it without breaking character. If these were planned mistakes, they did them right because they felt totally spontaneous. The rapport they had onstage was perfectly balanced to the show, and neither of them took focus from the other.
Talese Hunt as Ulla was another phenomenal performer. She is an amazing dancer and has great comic timing. Some of the later part of her first song, “When You Got It, Flaunt It,” was a little strained, but she was very skilled in her dance numbers. Quinn Kapetanov as Roger de Bris was one of the highlights of the show when playing Adolph Hitler. His solo in “Springtime for Hitler” was one of the funniest parts of the whole evening. Quinn Kapetanov attacked the role with incredibly high energy. His parts as Roger de Bris seemed to break the fourth wall sometimes (as if he were winking at the audience), but that was a minor critique. But the person who almost stole the show was BJ Whimpey as Franz Liebkind. He commanded focus in every one of his numbers; “Haben Sie gehört das Deutche band?” was a particular show stopper.
Rick Rea did a monumental job of directing this show, keeping the pace up and constantly flowing from one scene to the next. The stage at the Ziegfeld is not large, and this show has many scene changes. Each scene change was handled deftly and without incident. Most shows would have ground to a halt in these shifts, but at the Ziegfeld the transitions were smartly done. The scenic design by Rick Rea, Quinn Kapatenov and Caleb Parry was surprisingly well suited to the show. The costumes design Becky Jean Cole was rich, lush, and much better than is seen in most community theater productions, in particular the Broadway Babes costumes.
A major aspect of the show that was problematic was the sound design by Alex Thedell. The recorded accompaniment was played loudly, while the body mikes on the performers were set at a much lower level (if they were working at all). Through most of the show, the songs were hard to understand, and a lot of the lyrics were lost because the balance was so far off. I kept hoping that the sound booth would hear that and adjust either the mikes, the accompaniment or both, but sadly this only happened once. Hopefully they will iron out the problems with the sound and the remaining performances reach their full potential. My only other complaint is something that I have seen too much of lately: unprepared and rambling curtain speeches before the show. Please, please, plan what you need to say, or make a recorded voice-over. The rambling curtain speeches at amateur theatre companies around the state must stop.
The Ziegfeld Theater has only been around for a couple of years, and they are slowly renovating the building bit by bit. They have a great space. The façade is the last part they are working on now, and the lobby and theater are looking great. They are really building a great home for the arts in Ogden. This was my first time attending a show at the Ziegfeld Theater, and based on this show alone, it will not be my last. If you are any fan of Mel Brooks or The Producers, I recommend that readers do themselves a favor and see this show. But take a tip from the pre-show announcement: If dirty old ladies offend you, you have been warned.