March 19, 2009

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Palace to produce The Producers
The popular Mel Brooks’ musical opens soon

By Heidi Masek hmasek@hippopress.com

Regional professional theater The Palace in Manchester opens a three-weekend run of The Producers March 27.

“We’ve been trying to get the rights for a long time now,” said Palace artistic director Carl Rajotte. The title was highly requested at the Palace.

Mel Brooks’ The Producers opened on Broadway in 2001, won 12 Tony awards and ran for more than 2,500 performances. Brooks’ films include Blazing Saddles (1974), Young Frankenstein (1974) and History of the World: Part I (1981). This stage musical was adapted from his 1968 movie The Producers. A 2005 remake starred much of the Broadway cast (Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick).

“I’m excited. I’m a true fan,” Rajotte said.

In The Producers, Broadway producer Max Bialystock is down on his luck, can’t produce a hit and is losing lots of money. His accountant, Leo Bloom, remarks after going through Bialystock’s books that someone could make more money with a flop, Rajotte said.

They end up trying to gather backers to try to produce the worst show in town, Springtime for Hitler. Instead of taking offense, “people thought it was hysterically funny ... a wonderfully satirical work,” Rajotte said.

It’s a “big spectacle show ... the costumes are going to be amazing,” Rajotte said. One number includes 18 “old ladies” dancing with walkers. The cast of 33 is large by Palace professional standards.

The Producers involves a lot of adult comedy. “If you like Mel Brooks, you’re going to like this type of humor,” Rajotte said.

Manchester West High alum William Hartery plays Max. He worked with Rajotte about six years ago. Hartery has been in a national tour of Cats and worked frequently at the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia and Fulton Theatre in Lancaster, Pa. Gus Curry, who just starred as Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors at the Palace, plays Leo. Dawn Lebrecht, a return New York actor, plays Ulla. About four Rockettes play show girls.

In February, the Palace reported that they had had their largest turnout ever for their New York City auditions, with more than 500 trying out for Little Shop, The Producers and Sweet Charity. The Producers was definitely a draw. “Everyone wants this show as a credit on their résumé,” Rajotte said.

Rajotte said the need for work also contributed to the high turnout. Unfortunately, many theaters across the country are closed, he said. (Several major productions also closed on Broadway this winter.)

Nola Studios, where the Palace auditioned, is the same studio where Brooks did his original reading and sold his show, Rajotte said.


Producing The Producers
What: Mel Brooks’ The Producers
Where: The Palace Theatre, 80 Hanover St., Manchester
When: Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m., from March 27 through April 10, plus Saturday, April 11, at 2 and 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $15 to $40. It’s part of the Citizens Bank Performing Art Series, with discounts available to Citizens customers and colleagues. Buy tickets at the box office, call 668-5588 or visit www.palacetheatre.org.

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