PTPA presents outrageous ‘The Producers’ in Hazleton

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First Posted: 7/29/2014

Sounding serious, theatrical producer Max Bialystock asks flamboyant director Roger DeBris if he’s had a chance yet to read the script for “Springtime for Hitler.”

“Read it?” DeBris responds. “I devoured it! And I find it remarkable, REMARKABLE! I feel it is a very important piece drenched with historical goodies. I for one, for instance, never realized that the Third Reich meant Germany.”

The historically clueless director and the producer who apparently has very poor taste are just two of the offbeat and outrageous characters you’ll meet if you attend the Tony Award-winning, Mel Brooks musical “The Producers,” which opens Friday at the J.J. Ferrara Center in Hazleton.

“We haven’t stopped laughing at it,” said John Schugard, who is directing the show for the Pennsylvania Theatre of Performing Arts. “The entire thing is fall-out-of-your-seat funny.”

The title characters — the producers in question — are Bialystock and his accountant, Leo Bloom, who search high and low for a sure flop, a musical so dreadful it’s bound to close soon after they open it on Broadway.

Intending to oversell a sure-fire failure to wealthy backers and keep the money when it folds, they stumble upon “Springtime for Hitler,” written by a crazed admirer of der Fuhrer named Franz Liebkind.

Liebkind demands Bialystock and Bloom take the bizarre “Seigfried Oath,” teaches them a dance and happens to keep a flock of pet pigeons on his roof-top.

“Thank you to Dane Bower from Little Theatre, because he built the pigeon coop,” Schugard said. “He was generous enough to lend it to us.”

Unfortunately for Max and Leo’s best-laid plans, audiences mistake the “Springtime” musical for clever satire and it becomes a hit.

Actors David Zimmerman and Brent Harris, both from the Lehigh Valley, auditioned for the roles of Bialystock and Bloom together and have a terrific chemistry and timing, PTPA artistic director Paul Winarski said.

The story takes place in the 1950s, Winarski added, explaining that was “a Golden Age of Broadway.”

“Even though they’re on Broadway,” Schugard said, “I think of Max as classic Hollywood. He’s a show business hustler, whereas Leo Bloom is an accountant. I don’t mean to cast aspersions on accountants, but he’s a spineless coward.

“Both Max and Leo are good for each other.”

Each performance of the PTPA show will be preceded by a buffet dinner, served 90 minutes before curtain time. Show-only tickets also are available.