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Broadway show brings big laughs

Charlie Owen
Vail, CO, Charlie
Special to the Daily
ALL |

You could call it the South Park of Broadway. It makes fun of everything and dares you to be offended by its satire.

“The Producers” has won more Tony Awards (Broadway’s highest honor) than any show in history, and it only ran on Broadway for five years. The shows success is almost unexplainable given its subject matter ” a humorous blend of racial, sexual and religious satire coupled with ridiculous musical numbers ” but it works.

One of the stars of the show, Britt Hancock, gave his explanation for the show’s popularity during a phone interview from Fort Collins where “The Producers” is scheduled for a three-night stint.

“You laugh from the moment you step in to the moment you leave, and I think that was what was missing from Broadway for a long time,” Hancock said. ‘I think this kind of brought back the big, splashy musical comedy that (wasn’t) on Broadway for a while before. I think this set the precedent for a reemergence of that. All the shows that have come after it have kind of lived up to that standard.”

Hancock plays a character named Roger DeBris in the play; a flamboyantly gay director who considers himself the best on Broadway while everybody else thinks just the opposite.

DeBris is hired by Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom to direct their latest show, a planned failure that will make them rich in the end. The only problem is that the show is a huge success and their plans to take the money and run slowly fall to ruin.

Hancock, whose acting credits include roles in “Beauty and the Beast” and “Oklahoma,” said he enjoys his current role immensely. Although he has only been with the cast since August, things clicked immediately.

“This is a lot of fun just because you get to be free and make fun of yourself. Anything goes with this role. Pretty much anything you do is going to get a laugh. Hopefully ” not all the time ” but hopefully,” Hancock said.

Some people go to see “The Producers” expecting harmless entertainment, but it contains vast amounts of dubious humor. Hancock said he’s performed in front of several audiences who didn’t get it at first, but once they realized it was all in fun eased up.

With a cast of characters including Adolph Hitler, former Nazis, blatant homosexuals and greedy producers, all portrayed for laughs, it doesn’t exactly sound like a recipe for success.

Some of the songs sung by the cast have titles that would make the devil blush.

“Keep it Gay” is pretty obvious, as is “Springtime for Hitler,” and both so overtly campy and silly that only the most stone-faced stoics could resist a chuckle.

Legendary funny man Mel Brooks created “The Producers” in 1968, first as a film and then in 2001 as a Broadway musical. It closed on Broadway this year, but it continues on tour throughout America. Such distasteful material might fly in New York, but what about the rest of the country?

“I think some of the humor may not land as well in some of the small conservative towns we’re playing in as opposed to a cosmopolitan area like New York. We were nervous about that in the beginning but even if the audience is a little bit quieter throughout the show they still leap to their feet during curtain call,” Hancock said.

Beaver Creek is one of the stops on the tour this year. The Vilar Performing Arts Center is considerably smaller than the Broadway stage, but Hancock said that the production value is the same as it would be on Broadway, only scaled down to accommodate smaller venues.

The show at the Vilar Center will include two walk on roles as well. Tony Mauro, general manager of KZYR in Edwards will have one of the roles and another will be given away on air as a prize around 8:45 a.m. today.

“It’s a very, very small part. I say like one line. But I think it’s kind of funny how they would ask a member of the community that has no acting experience and, quite frankly, very little talent as well, to be in a play,” said Mauro, who also joked that he would write his line on his hand so he wouldn’t forget it. “I don’t expect it to be a kind of career changing opportunity, but it should be a lot of fun.”

The importance of “The Producers” extends beyond awards and entertainment, though. It’s social commentary at its peak. There is plenty to be said about a show that can mix classic elements of the stage with head-spinning comedy and still make you walk away from it thinking about issues relevant to our times.

“Everyone that comes to this show can be offended in some way,” said Hancock, whose character is one of the most stereotypical and outrageous in the entire cast. “It makes fun of everything from politics to religion to sexual orientation to race relations. They poke fun of everything equally, so I mean, maybe it’s successful (at) breaking down some of the stereotypes in society because you are able to recognize and make fun of yourself along with everyone else.”

If nothing else, “The Producers” is a mirror we look in to see how society has changed for the better, and laugh at our own reflections.

Arts and Entertainment writer Charlie Owen can be reached at 748-2939 or cowen@vaildaily.com.


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