THEATER REVIEW: “The Producers” is hilarious at Welk Resorts Theatre

You gotta love the gutsiness of Premiere Productions proprietors Randall Hickman and Douglas Davis.

The pair run two small North County theaters – Vista’s tiny Broadway Theater and the kids’-show equivalent, the Off Broadway, where they put local kids onstage for the likes of “Cinderella.”

Now they’ve partnered with Welk Resorts Theatre in Escondido for a three-show season in Welk’s much bigger theater.

The first is the big, over-the-top musical “The Producers,” last seen locally in a 2004 national tour.

You remember the Mel Brooks plot: after a recent string of flops, producer Max Bialystock (Hickman), the former “King of Broadway,” conspires with nebbishy accountant Leo Bloom (Davis) to engineer a surefire flop so they can pocket investors’ front money and stretch out on a beach in Rio.

When they find a tasteless script called “Springtime For Hitler,” a “gay romp” by a lunatic former Nazi named Franz Liebkind (Devin Collins), they know they’ve found their show. To ensure its failure, they hire impossibly bad gay director Roger DeBris (Bob Himlin).

Hickman and Davis, partners in life, are perfect foils for each other here, Hickman’s oversized interpretation of Max a perfect accompaniment for Davis’ sweeter, quieter, security blanket-dependent Leo, whose ethical sense has to be anesthetized in order to fall in with the plan. They make a great odd couple, and both have the vocal and acting chops to pull it off.

Standouts in the supporting cast include Conor Tibbs as DeBris’ assistant Carmen Ghia, who has a change of outrageous sunglasses with each entrance and also solos on the signature tune “Springtime for Hitler,” and Tracy Ray Reynolds, whose Swedish bombshell Ulla wins Leo’s heart with a bad accent (intentional) and good acting and dancing.

Choreographer Ray Limon’s adaptation of Susan Stroman’s Tony-winning dances creates magic again.

Production values are high, with great variety in costumes, a fine sound design by Patrick Hoyny (though recorded music replaces an orchestra) and lighting by Jennifer Edwards. The opening night gaffes (prop malfunctions and some sound problems) have doubtless been fixed.

“The Producers” runs two hours, 40 minutes and does occasionally tend to drag – not all of Brooks’ songs are great – but it’s an irresistibly funny show.

The details

Broadway Vista Theater’s production of “The Producers” plays through March 25 at Welk Resorts Theater, 8860 Lawrence Welk Drive, Escondido.

Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday at 1 pm; Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 1 and 8 pm.

For tickets, call (888) 802-7469 or visit a href="http://welktheaterssandiego.com" target="_blank"> HERE.

To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.