Review: ‘The Producers’ at J-ART @ the Jewish Cultural Center
‘The Producers’ is a multiple Tony award winning musical from the comedic mind of Mel Brooks. It is a farce style musical comedy meaning that most of the show is over the top. So when community theatre group J-ART at the JCC decided to put such a huge hit on their stage they knew it would be a challenge to pull off. Unfortunately, the production did not entirely live up to the hype it created for itself in its playbill, though I do agree that it was a unique night at the theatre.
The show, accompanied by a five piece orchestra, began its performance to a moderately full audience who seemed to really enjoy the show. The first area that could have been focused on a bit more was that of the sound. Though the orchestra was small, at times their volume overpowered the vocals. Many, if not all, cast members were wearing individual mics which often times were either set too loud for some or not high enough for others. This made not only hearing, but understanding each character a bit more challenging. However, I will commend the cast for being able to project their voices into the space rather than rely on the microphone to do all the work. Secondly, often times the choreography came across unrefined as certain dancers looked uncomfortable and seemed to lack confidence with the steps.
The ensemble, all of whom played many roles throughout the performance, overall did a good job. Portraying multiple characters is not an easy task, but this group took on the challenge, and though some characters were not convincing, others were very well done. Two of those well done characters were portrayed by Steven Grabowski, as Franz, and Kevin Lempke, as lead storm trooper. Steven’s portrayal of German playwright Franz was energetic and highly amusing. Kevin’s vocals during “Springtime for Hitler (part 1)” were a wonderful highlight within the production.
The lead roles of Max Bialystock and Leopold Bloom were nicely done by dynamic duo Austin Kopp, as Max, and Chris Rojas, as Leo. They played off each other very well throughout the performance and it was clear they worked hard on their comedic timing as they consistently hit their punch lines just right. Austin’s comedic talent shined brightest in his solo song in Act 2 entitled “Betrayed”. This song is very upbeat and not only vocally challenging but physically challenging as well. Austin did a great job not only remembering the extensive amount of lyrics, but his vocal and physical performance during the number made it a hilarious audience favorite.
The perfectly cast Chris Rojas, as Leopold Bloom, was a consistent highlight of the production. From the moment he walked on the stage he had the audience engaged in the story and steadily chuckling. He made clear character choices, embodying his neurotic character, and stuck to his choices from start to finish. He nailed all aspects of the physical comedy he attempted. Looking like a young Matthew Broderick, who originated the role on Broadway in 2001, certainly didn’t hurt.
Overall, this production was a unique experience that the audience highly enjoyed. ‘The Producers’ can be seen on stage until November 22nd at the Springfield Jewish Cultural Center. For more information or tickets visit https://www.springfieldjcc.org/events/theproducerspresen/.
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