‘The Producers’: Village stages Mel Brooks’ classic

Actor Rich Gray said the whole cast made a conscious decision that they would not pause every time the audience laughed.

If they did that, each show would last about 10 hours.

“The laughs come fast and furious so we made a conscious choice that you have to let a couple of them roll by, so that if you missed the first couple, the fourth one is the big laugh,” Gray said. “So if you don’t laugh at something right away don’t worry, another joke is coming around the pike.”

That is the thing with Mel Brooks and that is one of the key elements of “The Producers”: It is hilariously funny.

Village Theatre is producing this comic musical for the first time in the Pacific Northwest. The show opens today at Everett Performing Arts Center.

“The Producers” was written by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan with music and lyrics by Brooks.

As a result, the show is drenched in that Mel Brooks, Sid Caesar-type burlesque humor that comes unencumbered by any irony or snarkiness.

It is raw humor served up with raunchy innuendo.

For instance when Max and Leo see the luxurious Ulla for the first time, Max says, “We may be sitting but we are giving you a standing ovation.”

Actor Rich Gray said he is a huge fan of Brooks and called the Village Theatre production big and splashy with lots of goose-stepping and grannies tap-dancing with their walkers.

Gray plays producer Max Bialystock, who is out of luck and looking for a money scheme. He and his nervous accountant hatch a plan to put on a Broadway show that is guaranteed to be a flop to turn some quick cash.

As the scheme turns south, these two producers try to fly the coop but things go awry against a backdrop of glitzy choreography.

“The Producers” has been around for a while and Max Bialystock has been played by Zero Mostel and Nathan Lane.

Gray said he pulled a little from both actors.

“I’m a little bit slimier than Nathan Lane and a little more cute and cuddlier than Zero Mostel,” Gray said. “It’s one of those parts where there’s lots of meat to chew on.”

Gray said director Steve Thompson leads the show like a nonstop crescendo where the scenes had to constantly top themselves to bring the show to its finale, the musical number “Springtime for Hitler.”

“That had to be all out,” Gray said.

The challenge of the show, then, is that there are still 21 minutes after that big number and that’s where the story is finished: the story of Max and his business partner Leo Bloom, played by Brian Earp.

“And that story, and I almost hate to use this word, but it needs to be about the kind of bromance that Max and Leo have,” Gray said. “They had found each other’s professional soul mate though they were completely different people.”

Gray, who has lived in Lynnwood for 20 years, said he loves Everett crowds because they are not afraid to laugh.

Village Theatre shows typically open in Issaquah where audiences seem to compare notes during intermission before they actually let loose, Gray said.

“The crowd is boisterous here,” Gray said. “In Issaquah we joke that they all talk during intermission and come back ready to laugh in the second act because they’ve said amongst themselves, ‘Are we in on this or what?’

“In Everett, people say, ‘I’m going to laugh no matter what.’”

“The Producers”

Opens at 8 tonight at Everett Performing Arts Center, 2710 Wetmore Ave., Everett. Shows are at 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays, 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays and 7 p.m. on selected Sundays through July 29. General admission starts at $38. Call 425-257-8600 or go to -->

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