COURTESY DIAMOND HEAD THEATRE
Leo Bloom (Dan Nahaku) is dependent on his security blanket in "The Producers."
Choreography and musical numbers help ‘The Producers’ soar
A blockbuster musical is built in equal parts of two essential ingredients: a good "book" and memorable music on one hand, superb execution by the cast and crew on the other. Diamond Head Theatre's production of "The Producers" has both.
Where: Diamond Head Theatre, 520 Makapuu Ave.
When: Continues 8 p.m. May 29, 30 and June 7; 3 p.m. May 31; 4 p.m. June 1 and 8
Tickets: $12 to $42
Call: 733-0274 or visit www.diamondheadtheatre.com
Mel Brooks' satirical assault on Broadway centers on two con men who scheme to defraud wealthy women by overselling shares in a Broadway musical that celebrates the life and times of Adolf Hitler. It was an Academy Award-winning film in the '60s, then a Tony Award-winning hit on Broadway in 2001.
Director/choreographer John Rampage and a superb cast make DHT's production the crowning accomplishment of its season, and one of the best locally produced musicals in memory.
Dennis Proulx (Max Bialystock) and Don Nahaku (Leo Bloom) are perfectly matched in the leads. Proulx is big, blustering and cunning as a one-time "king" of Broadway now reduced to a gigololike existence romancing elderly women for money. Nahaku, much smaller than Proulx in stature, seems even smaller in the scenes where Bialystock treats him as little more than a "gofer." Their relationship changes as Bloom gains confidence in himself as a "producer" and as a man; Nahaku makes the change seem natural.
The major supporting players are brilliant as well. Daniel James Kunkel (Franz Liebkind) earns applause as a stereotypical German refugee playwright so out of touch with reality he believes someone in New York would produce a play honoring Hitler. Renee Noveck (Ulla) adds pizazz as a stereotypical dumb-blonde Swedish sex bomb; her showcase number, "When You've Got It, Flaunt It," is a comic highlight.
Douglas S. Scheer (Roger DeBris) takes possession of two big scenes with his hilarious portrayal of a flamboyant transvestite Broadway director. Scheer is the focal point of "Keep It Gay," one of the musical highlights of Act 1. The number is also the start of a career-best performance by Twan Matthews (Carmen Ghia) as DeBris' "common-law assistant."
Rampage does a masterful job as director/choreographer. The comic bits, the character moments and the music all get their due. The choreography is outstanding.
The biggest musical number is the iconic show-within-a-show anthem, "Springtime for Hitler," and Rampage puts in everything it needs to succeed as tribute -- or parody -- to old-style production numbers. The ironic thing is that the carefully choreographed storm troopers, and the showgirls strutting in a swastika formation, look like something that could have been in one of the frothy German musicals of the late 1930s -- and then out comes Scheer's Hitler as so flamboyantly gay that he makes Liberace look "butch" by comparison.
There are other embellishments to enjoy as well: the synchronized pigeons in Liebkind's rooftop coop; the elaborate choreography involving walkers and a swing as Bialystock seduces one financial "angel" after another in Little Old Lady Land; Liebkind wearing his German helmet under his striped prisoner's cap in the "Prisoners of Love" number.
Add Willie Sabel's sets, Karen Wolfe's costumes and a perfect collaboration between Mikel J. Humerickhouse and Emmett G. Yoshioka on sound design, and the show succeeds on all levels.