If you don’t think farts are funny, don’t bother showing up.
That’s what Bend theater producer and actor David Simpson said about the Mel Brooks mania taking over the Tower Theatre next week, including showings of Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein and Cat Call’s full scale production of The Producers.
In a serious case of art imitating life, Simpson steps out of his role as real-life producer to play on-stage producer Max Bialystock in Brooks’ film turned musical. Bend big timers, Cat Call Productions, in their yearly musical theater blowout, tackle the celebrated show. Past shows have included 2009’s Cabaret, 2010’s Little Shop of Horrors and last year’s hugely successful Chicago.
Max Bialystock, former Broadway royalty, and Leo Bloom, a timid and eccentric accountant, realize that a producer stands to make more money on a flop than a hit. They devise their scheme for success, and by success, they mean complete failure. Hilarity ensues as the producers put together a riveting rendition of the play “Springtime for Hitler” and encounter one snafu after another.
The 1968 film version, starring Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel, was adapted into a Broadway musical in 2001. For the last decade, The Producers has held a special place in theatrical history, holding the record for most Tony awards (12), until last year when The Book of Mormon snaked the title.
In 2005, a film version of the musical reintroduced a new generation to Max (Nathan Lane), Leo (Matthew Broderick) and their abysmal German playwright Franz Liebkind (Will Ferrell).
Taking on such an iconic piece is a definite challenge, but director Sandy Silver, an 11-year veteran of the Bend theater scene and lifelong thespian, is putting her own twist on The Producers. She insists that while she is staying true to the era of classic Broadway, she is not trying to replicate the performances of past greats. Her goal is to recreate the magic with her actors' unique skills and chemistry.
“It’s a matter of bringing your humor and your essence to the character,” said Silver. “I want them to be able to connect with the character and present their own Max or Leo.”
Silver’s focus on distinctive character portrayal will be extremely important to the quirky roles of The Producers. The cast of characters in the show is riddled with the ridiculous, distasteful and overall hilarious personas that Brooks does best. The entire production climaxes in the epic musical number “Springtime for Hitler,” which Liebkind’s subtitle explains is “A Gay Romp with Adolf and Eva at Berchtesgaden.”
Sound offensive? It is. But, just as Mel Brooks wasn’t afraid to push buttons in 1968, Tifany LeGuyonne, the actual producer of The Producers, explains that Cat Call is excited at the prospect of bringing the Bend audience to a new level of discomfort while giving them some huge laughs.
“We’ve pushed the envelope year after year and the community has been appreciative and responsive to it,” said LeGuyonne, “Good theater should be dangerous.”
LeGuyonne’s confidence suggests that Cat Call won’t be doing any “creative accounting” of their own this year, but depending on your willingness to tolerate Nazi slurs, German musical numbers and toilet humor, the play may or may not be for you. LeGuyonne admits that even her first time through The Producers was slightly gut wrenching.
“I had a moment where I thought to myself, this has gone too far, this is horrible,” said LeGuyonne. “But in this one moment of being completely horrified, in the next second I am laughing uproariously. In my opinion there are very few gems of theater out there like that; it has a real arc.”
The Producers, along with much of Brooks’ off-the-wall comedy, is something that sticks with you. Simpson explained he saw the film version during its first run at the age of 16.
“I drove down the sunset strip to the Granada Theatre. I had seen and heard about the movie and thought it was so interesting,” recalled Simpson. “The characters, the story, everything about it. I was just transfixed. So I’ve been a Producers fan for 40 years.”
The Producers is going to make you feel something, whether it's disgusted, amused or just good old fashioned entertained. It’s an opportunity to see edgy theater in Bend and, like the rest of Brooks’ catalogue, LeGuyonne explains, “You’re going to love it, or you’re going to hate it.”
Photo taken by Derek Oldham
8 p.m. Sept. 14, 15, 19, 20, 21 and 22
4 p.m. Sept. 16
Tower Theatre, 835 NW Wall St.
Tickets $30 to $35, available at
Sept. 17, 7 p.m.
Sept. 18, 7 p.m.
Both $9 or free with a ticket
to The Producers