By MATTHEW MEYER | Reporter
Opening night of “The Producers” at Palisades Charter High School pulled no punches—and thankfully so.
It’s a musical written by one of America’s great Jewish comedians for the express purpose of mocking Adolf Hitler. Along the way, Mel Brooks’ script also revels in caricatures of seedy showrunners, flamboyant gay actors and show biz starlets.
A credit to director Nancy Fracchiolla for leaning into these over-the-top characterizations; and a standing ovation for the talented young cast for delivering a gutsy, riotous performance.
At the center of “Producers” are the greedy, washed-up Broadway producer Max Bialystock and his uptight accountant Leopold Bloom.
At Pali, Ethan Jones soared in his portrayal of Bialystock. From his nasally snarl and repulsive hip gyrations to the impressive breath control he displayed in his solos’ frantic crescendos, Jones hogged the stage all night in the way his character positively demands.
In his portrayal of Bloom, Charlie Hobert provided the perfect foil, all hunched shoulders, deep breaths and snivels to contrast Jones’ unmitigated greed.
The duo’s scheme to produce a Broadway flop and then make away with their investors’ money led them down a path filled with characters that gave Pali’s deep, diverse cast an extended showcase.
Jenna Ross emerged as a triple threat in her portrayal of Ulla, the producers’ captivating Swedish “secretary/receptionist.”
Ross (literally, at times) bounced around the stage, impressing with her singing and dancing ability, but also with her hysterical delivery of heavily accented quips. She brought warmth and power to a role that could play a bit flat in the wrong hands.
Luke Rosa’s mocking portrayal of Nazi playwright Franz Liebkind drew big laughs, particularly as he led an unabashed Bialystock and horrified Bloom through an indoctrination ceremony that was equal parts furor and singsong.
And Riley Kershaw, as the flamboyant director-turned-actor Roger de Bris, owned the second act with his ridiculous portrayal of Hitler himself—bashful, breathless and very, very gay.
(Among myriad other strong ensemble moments, the show’s army of sex-crazed grannies deserves a shout-out here for constant hysterics.)
Set designer John Ong brought the story to life with colorful, detailed pieces throughout, and Pali’s live orchestra delivered once again under the direction of Elizabeth Stoyanovich.
On the inside cover of the musical’s playbill, Pali included a Brooks quote that concludes: “It’s been one of my lifelong jobs to make the world laugh at Adolf Hitler.”
For one more weekend, the Führer will have you rolling at Pali High.
“The Producers” plays at Pali High on Oct. 12 at 7 p.m. and on Oct. 13 and 14 at 8 p.m. Purchase advance tickets at squareup.com/store/palihighasb.
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