"THE PRODUCERS" has a book, music and lyrics by the hilariously multi-talented Mel Brooks. And when it is by Mel Brooks, you know you will have a LOL-good time watching this show. As expected, the talented Repertory Philippines' cast does not fail us, and we the audience had an incredibly great time last night as the premiere.
Slimy Max Bialystock was a has-been Broadway producer who has seen better days in his career. With the box office failure of his latest show (a musical version of Hamlet called "Funny Boy"), his new high-strung bookkeeper Leo Bloom commented that he can actually earn more money with a flop than with a hit. With that idea as inspiration, Bialystock and Bloom joined forces to produce a preposterous musical called "Springtime for Hitler", fully expecting it to fail miserably with the critics. But fate seems to have other ideas for these two scheming producers.
Carlo Orosa was a riot as Max Bialystock. I did not recognize him at first with the thick mustache he was wearing, but that piece of facial hair was essential to establish his character's sleazy personality. This guy can really sing with that soaring voice of his, which you hear from his very first song, "The King of Broadway". Those scenes where Max was hustling little old ladies with sex games to sponsor his theater production in the song "Along Came Bialy" were super naughty and funny (making the show flirt with R-16 territory). Carlo's alternate in this role is another theater veteran, Robie Zialcita.
Topper Fabregas plays the insecure, wide-eyed accounting clerk with Broadway dreams, Leo Bloom. He was just in a much similar role in Rep's "Boeing Boeing" last year, so he has got this naive innocent schtick down pat. His best solo song number was "I Wanna Be a Producer" which he sang fantasizing while slaving in his boring accounting office.
The chemistry between Fabregas and Orosa together was amazingly vital, which was very important for the whole play to succeed. I enjoyed the duets they sang together, especially "Where Did We Go Right?" and "Till Him." Both tunes had sweet tunes, with sentimental yet witty lyrics.
Giselle Tongi-Walters oozed with sex appeal playing the ditzy Swedish blonde bombshell Ulla who swept Bialystock and Bloom off their feet during her audition. Joel Trinidad was perfect as the fanatical Hitler fan, Franz Liebkind, who wrote the script for "Springtime with Hitler." Noel Rayos swished and sashayed as a director's assistant Carmen Ghia with such gleeful relish and elan.
However, there was no question that the most scene-stealing role of this entire show is that of the flamboyant cross-dressing theater director, Roger de Bris, so memorably played last night by no less than Mr. Audie Gemora. It turns out the short cross-dressing we saw of Gemora in his last show "No Way to Treat a Lady" was just a small preview of the considerably wilder, totally flaming queen role Gemora is playing here. Every time he stepped on stage, he just owned it with his eye-catching outfits from glittery gowns to mini-skirt. He will surprise you too with his acrobatic prowess! I simply cannot imagine someone else, even his alternate, Noel Trinidad, tackle this very bold and showy role.
Director Jaime del Mundo, just fresh from the success of "The Bluebird of Happiness" for Trumpets, was able to harness the grandiosity of the script and scale it down to a production that fit very well into the confines of the Onstage stage. That challenge of making the most of the limited stage space was addressed so well by Mio Infante by his set design. The costumes in the colorful "Keep It Gay" and the spectacular "Springtime for Hitler" scenes were a triumph for designer Raven Ong. Congratulations once again to the entire Repertory Philippines cast and crew of this very energetic outrageous show!
"The Producers" opened last night November 15, 2013, and will have Saturday 8 pm and Sunday 3:30 pm shows up to December 15, 2013, at Onstage in Greenbelt 1, Makati City.
Buy your tickets online at the Repertory Philippines website at www.repertoryphilippines.com, or from the Ticketworld website at www.ticketworld.com.ph. Tickets are also available in all Ticketworld outlets in Metro Manila.