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By Elizabeth Youngman Westphal
Special to The Village News 

'The Producers' is a resounding success


Last updated 6/24/2019 at 5:59pm

One never knows when a single act will change the course of a country. Washington crossed the Delaware. Francis Scott Key was imprisoned under a siege, or a lone trumpeter played the national anthem at dusk.

Shrouded in twilight, the haunting sounds of a solo trumpeter invoking "The Star Spangled Banner" filled the night air. It was a hallowed moment for those who heard it. As the country's anthem drifted above the din – it was a gentle reminder to embrace God, country and the flag.

The question arises, why shouldn't the national anthem be played before each and every public performance? Why save it for sporting events?

The 39th season at the Moonlight Stage opened with Mel Brooks' "The Producers" Wednesday, June 12, in Vista.

This unholy show breaks every rule of decorum as it rollicks down into the depths of depravity. The show is tasteless, smarmy and breaks all of the guidelines of the social order. There is not one single utterance of political correctness in it.

That must be why it is fall down on your knees hilarious. "The Producers" is to be embraced for unapologetically calling society out for all of its name calling, labeling and bullying. Hurray for Mel Brooks for showing society how to laugh at itself since 1968.

"The Producers" exposes the fate of one unscrupulous Broadway producer who willingly goes to any length to overcome failure. After all, Max laments, "He has the biggest name on Broadway, 13 letters."

It would seem Max Bialystock, played by Jamie Torcellini, is this way because it's just his nature. He is self-serving and unrepentant. Therefore, he can go about bilking and debauching little old ladies out of their life's savings for his own uses without remorse.

Furthermore, with his sex appeal, Max may be responsible for single-handedly bringing back the comb over. Torcellini's Max is every bit as ruthless and shameless as Zero Mostel or Nathan Lane. He fills their shoes effortlessly.

As it happens, Leo Bloom, played by Larry Raben, innocently steps into Max's lair. Much to Max's chagrin, Bloom is ordered by his employer to reconcile the books. The light dawns when Bloom off-handedly mentions there wouldn't be any reporting if a show failed.

Max's imagination is sparked. He has solved his fundraising dilemma. All he has to do to retire is to over-sell shares and produce a bomb. But first Max must find the "worst script ever-written" and have it directed by Broadway's worst director.

Enter Franz Liebkind, played by Luke H. Jacobs, who is the author of "Springtime for Hitler." Jacobs is absurdly authentic as a loud-mouthed, pseudo Nazi. Obnoxiously over played, he is every man's Hitler.

Next, the duo elicits Roger De Bris, played by Josh Adamson, as director. Finally persuaded to take the helm, he requires only one more accoutrement, his last "Gloria Swanson mole." Adamson plays the zany embodiment of a stereotypical cross-dressing whacko. He is a blazing success.

As "they say, 'you ain't seen nothing yet.'" Wait until you wrap your eyes around De Bris' assistant, Carmen Ghia, played by Max Cadillac. Cadillac is so blissfully over-the-top, it's not since Robin Williams did "Fosse, Fosse, Fosse" in "Birdcage" has such an ingenious characterization been seen. Just be prepared as Carmen Ghia choreographs the high-stepping-storm-trooper-tap-dancing routines while paying homage to Busby Berkley. Bialystock is convinced this incredulous exhibition should undoubtedly produce an unmitigated flop.

Amongst the talented list of characters is Oklahoma state beauty Katie Barna. She reimagines the fabulously dexterous Ulla with aplomb. Her "okey dokey" is as subtle as any double entendre ever spoken. Barna is lithe, leggy and luscious. No doubt, one of the few women – worldwide – who can do a backward walk over a couch into a split – without dropping a beat. Barna's performance sparkles.

The ensemble members are amongst the handsomest and loveliest dancers and singers available, newcomers like Ellie Barrett, Nichole Beeks, Lucas Blankenhorn, Brianna Clark, Karla J. Franko, Devon Hunt, Brandon Taylor Jones, Samantha Roper and Simoné Sassudelli.

Returning performers are favorites like Jake Bradford, Gerilyn Brault, Morgan Carberry, Matt Carvin, Deborah Fauerbach, Johnny Fletcher and Andrea Williams.

Brilliantly directed by Larry Raben and choreographed by the uber talented Karl Warden with a nod to the original kicks by the renowned Susan Stroman, Warden adds his flamboyant style to bring it all together.

Costumers Carlotta Malone, Roslyn Lehman and Renetta Lloyd worked their magic draping the cast in well-fitting splashy costumes. A big hurrah for Peter Herman's wigs, he got it right. Kathleen Kenna is the makeup designer.

Jennifer Edwards proves her skills again as the lighting designer, while Jim Zadai did the amazing sound design. Their remarkable skill should be noted; after all, they must work outside.

Back for his 11th season is musical director and conductor Lyndon Pugeda, extraordinaire. Leading a collection of the area's best musicians, all cleverly hidden in the orchestra pit, including violins Marina Hall and Maya Ginsberg; cello Carol Tolbert; reeds Trish Schenkelberg, Katrina Earl, Amy Kalal and Christian Arroyo; horn Jo Anita Washburn; trumpets Alyssa Keene, Ethan Brandt and Kendall Andrews; trombones Mark Lewis, Andrew Moreau and Charles Friedrichs; bass Martin Martiarena; keyboard Michelle Sorger; drums Steve Wright; percussion Dan Doerfler and harp Kerianne Brennan.

Besides all of these people there is an entire village of peeps keeping this production afloat. So much is dependent upon a success. In this case, there is no worry. Mel Brooks' "The Producers" is a resounding success. A five-star performance.

Playing at the outdoor venue at Moonlight Stage Productions in its 39th season until June 29. There's lots of free parking. For tickets, call the box office at (760) 724-2110 or visit

Up next is "Matilda, The Musical" followed by "West Side Story" and wrapping up the season with "Victor/Victoria." Why not join in the fun.

Bring friends and family together with season tickets but get them early before your group is sitting high up in the grass. You will rue the day you miss this show. It is rated 10 out of 10.

Elizabeth Youngman-Westphal can be reached at


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