Sunday, July 25, 2010

Beck Center: The Producers, a Mel Brooks Musical

(Beck Center for the Arts, Lakewood -- The Producers, music and lyrics by Mel Brooks)

Hmmm... I hate to draw comparisons to the film, especially since I don't particularly remember the film, but having seen that film undeniably colored my experience. I think had I not been predisposed and preexposed it would have been a perfectly acceptable musical, certainly most of the audience thoroughly enjoyed it. Well staged, with good talent (Betsy Kahl as Ulla has an impressive belt) my two chief complaints are technical -- from my seat the orchestra sounded a bit washed out, and the stage seemed entirely too dark at times (leading to several moments where my eyes fluttered closed -- highly undesireable, but not as bad as actually falling asleep).

Also notable was that when musical instruments were played on stage -- a violin in one scene (Alex Neidert) and piano in another (I'm not sure who to credit) -- the instruments were actually played, and well played, contrary to the more common (and distracting) device of using it as a mute prop while the sound emanates from somewhere else.

I didn't enjoy this as much as my last Beck Center production -- The Farnsworth Invention -- because it seemed stiff and rehearsed: Gags that relied on being "spontaneous" felt like they were coming from a page or two away: Perhaps it was the acting, perhaps it was having seen the story.

Not helping matters, The Producers (either version) is not a musical I particularly like in the first place: It seems to take far too long to get to the point, and I find most of the songs have an annoyingly long lifespan...bad considering none of them are particularly loveable.


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