Producing social satire in Beaver Creek
BEAVER CREEK, CO The Producers Monday evening show at the Vilar Performing Arts Center started out like any other production of the Broadway musical, but when lead actor Brad Nacht became too ill to continue his performance mid-way through act one, Jesse Coleman stepped into the role with seamless perfection. Coleman usually plays the role of Franz Liebkind, an enthusiastic ex-Nazi who wrote the play within the play Springtime for Hitler. It was one of those rare Broadway moments when a star meant to shine finally gets his chance, and Coleman didnt waste one moment of it. Although hes usually a big part of the cast, the lead is the role of a lifetime and Coleman devoured the role of Max Bialystock with a hunger the stage could use more of. This wasnt routine for him it was his chance to steal the show. One of the greatest moments of the night came during his solo performance of Betrayed in act two. Pausing between verses, he said intermission and took a deep breath before continuing, you guys have some thin air up here. He also took a jab at himself, pretending to be an audience member checking out the program and saying not bad for an understudy. Once again, the Vilar Performing Arts Center showed how capable it is of hosting big Broadway productions with little to no loss of production value. The sets were beautifully rendered, scaled-down replicas of the originals. The costumes were flashy and intricate, and included everything from a nun to the Village People, complete with cop, Indian and construction worker. The entire cast was professional and enjoyable to watch. Each number used the full range of the small stage and made the show seem larger than life. Max and Leo (Austin Owen) were hilarious as the perfect odd-couple, playing off each other like Laurel and Hardy. Lauren Cluett was amazing as the Swedish blond bombshell, Ulla. But perhaps the most entertaining and riveting characters were Roger DeBris (Britt Hancock) and his troupe of tight-clothed gay theater hounds. They brought hilarity to an already outrageous premise. There was so much crammed into the two-hour show both musically and visually yet it never once seemed polluted with unnecessary characters or plot devices. Everything flowed smoothly from one scene to the next, and by the end of the show, the entire audience was on their feet, cheering loudly.Injecting life into what could have been ridiculous stereotypes seems an impossible task, but Mel Brooks has done exactly that. These are characters we can all relate to, as over the top as they may be. Its no wonder The Producers has won so many Tony awards.Arts & Entertainment writer Charlie Owen can be reached at 748-2939 or email@example.com.