How many synonyms are there for "big"? You need them to describe the Conservatory Theatre Co.'s production of The Producers. Huge cast. Multiple sets. Colossal chutzpah. Large laughs. A towering monument to musical talent and bad taste. And remembering that the venue used to be a synagogue adds an extra frisson.
We're all clear on the plot and history? Mel Brooks' first feature film, in 1968, was about a scheme to profit from the worst play possible, a musical comedy about Adolf Hitler. Many more projects later, the comic genius turned The Producers into a real musical comedy, a boffo Broadway smash. For the Conservatory, local legend Tomé Cousin collaborated with the original director/choreographer, Susan Stroman, to recreate her Tony-winning efforts for a rousing evening of (sometimes uncomfortable) fun.
The Point Park undergrads (and grads) often overachieve with vigorous dancing, lusty singing, quick-witted stage presence, and the delight of playing broad and often offensive stereotypes. If some scene changes are clunky, or the Ziegfeld homage occasionally shaky — well, you can make allowances in a show about a bad play badly done.
Tom Driscoll is amazingly on target leading the show as the portly but indefatigable Bialystock, especially in his big solo, "Betrayed." Opposite him, bromantically speaking ("Till Him" tugs at manly heartstrings), Carter Ellis is an appropriately fresh-faced foil for his pal's machinations, but without the full Leo Bloom manic panic. Also notable are Jordon Ross Weinhold as the director/star; the energetic Brandon Taylor as his, um, associate; and Mandie Russak as the love/lust interest of the two leads. The company sparkles in the big production numbers, climaxing of course in the infamous "Springtime for Hitler."
Assisting Cousin is a strong artistic team: Don DiFonso, costumes; Michael Essad, scenic design; Douglas Levine, music director; Lauren Kadel, associate choreographer; Steve Shapiro, sound; Andrew David Ostrowski, lighting; Jessi Sedon-Essad, video; and Robert Haley, dialect coach. The Producers' book is by Brooks and Thomas Meehan, music by Brooks.
Still outrageous after 44 years, The Producers packs in the laughs at the Playhouse.