Broadway meets Bellingham

Posted by Margaret Bikman on September 26, 2013 

Danger: you might leave Mount Baker Theatre Repertory Theatre’s production of “The Producers” humming “Springtime for Hitler.”

With subtle nods to Broadway hits like “Fiddler on the Roof,” “My Fair Lady,” “Young Frankenstein,” “The Sound of Music” and “The Wizard of Oz,” this often offensive and un-politically correct musical by the goofy Mel Brooks is chock-full of talent, both local and shipped in from Seattle.

I talked with Richard Gray, who plays one of the leads, Max Bialystock, when he and part of the cast strolled into the Temple Bar after the show’s dress rehearsal on Tuesday, Sept. 25.

Gray plays his role with a frenzied, break-neck exuberance, and he said he drinks a “whole lot of water” during his breaks. He added that the role of Max is one of his favorites.

Sure, there are lots of New-York jokes (much of the show’s humor is pretty risqué) that might be a bit lost on Bellingham audiences — just as there are Bellingham references in some original local shows that would baffle outsiders — but all in all, it’s community theater at its best.

The orchestra, led by Ryan Dudenbostel (whose name sounds like it should be on the character side of the program) does a bang-up job leading the musicians, who include pianist Steve Barnes, violinist Grant Donnellan, flutist Lisa McCarthy, saxophonist John Meloy and percussionist Steph Straight, among others.

The always-surprising Jim Lortz, in one of his best performances yet; the 93-year-old Peggy Hunt, playing the character with the winning name of Hold Me-Touch Me; and the over-the-top Jon Lutyens as Carmen Ghia are standouts, but so are the accountants (bored) and the pigeons (mysteriously animated) were some of my favorite bits.

And Bob Simmons, in his two-minute role as the Judge, steals the show during the romantic song “’Til Him.”  Note: he doesn’t sing that song, but keep an eye on his naughtiness on stage left (and listen to his Lionel Barrymore voice!).

“Where Did We Go Right,” sing Gray and his partner-in-crime, Casey Raiha, who plays the Leo Bloom, the accountant-wanna-be producer.

Where “they” — the staff at Mount Baker Theatre —went right was to open up the dress rehearsal to the public, which consisted of theater supporters, friends and family and a lot of Western Washington University and Whatcom County theater students.

Hopefully the enthusiasm of the audience will spread to the rest of potential theater-goers who want a big-city show for small-town ticket prices. The show ends Sunday, Sept. 29.

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