Cabrillo Stage takes on 'The Producers'


Gary Schoenfeld (Leopold "Leo" Bloom) & Chris Reber (Max Bialystock) star in Cabrillo Stage's "The Producers." Photo by Steve DiBartolomeo

“The Producers,” a musical comedy based on Mel Brooks’ award-winning 1967 film, will run at Cabrillo College’s Crocker Theater through Aug. 19 as part of Cabrillo Stage’s Summer Musical Festival.

The story follows Max Bialystock, once a successful Broadway producer who suffers a series of flopped shows. Bialystock teams up with nervous accountant Leopold “Leo” Bloom, and the two plan to scam their way through producing a horrible musical while making off with millions of dollars in investments.

Their scheme, unsurprisingly, does not go as planned.

Chris Reber, who stars as Bialystock, described what it’s been like portraying such a distinctive, demanding role.

“Max is constantly figuring out what everyone wants, so he can get what he wants,” Reber said. “It’s a mad dash every time he’s on stage. He just goes for it! So yeah, it’s been fun but extremely physical. It can be tiring.”

Cabrillo Stage’s version of “The Producers” is directed and choreographed by Lee Ann Payne, who Reber praised for her vision — especially during the show’s most well-known musical number, “Springtime for Hitler.”

“It’s a feast for the eyes,” Reber laughed. “And Walter [Mayes], who plays Hitler in that scene — he does an amazing job. It’s so darn funny.”

Reber co-stars with Gary Schoenfeld as Leopold “Leo” Bloom, Jordan Pierini as Franz Leibkind, David Mister as Carmen Ghia, Jessica Whittemore as Ula and Mayes as Roger de Bris. Supporting them is a large ensemble cast of 17, many of whom play multiple characters.

One of these actors, Parise Zeleny of Watsonville, described what it was like being part of the ensemble.

“One second I’m a tumbling newsie, the next, a feeble old lady,” Zeleny said, “and the next a tap dancing soldier. I love the challenge of each unique role.”

The original Broadway production of “The Producers” opened in 2001 and went on to win 12 Tony Awards and 10 Drama Desk Awards.

Artistic and Musical Director of Cabrillo Stage Jon Nordgren spoke early on in the festival’s season about his choices for this year. The company put on “Rent” earlier this summer; coupled with “The Producers,” it’s one of the most unique seasons they’ve done.

“The shows are complete opposites, and in that way, they balance each other out,” Nordgren said. “After crying your eyes out seeing ‘Rent,’ you can come back to see ‘The Producers’ and laugh your heart out.”

“The Producers” will run through Aug. 19 at the Crocker Theater, located on the Cabrillo College campus, 6500 Soquel Drive. Tickets range in price from $25 depending on age, date and seating. Certain discounts are available.

“I hope the audience leaves the theater laughing and seeing the world a little brighter than when they arrived,” Zeleny said. “It’s important to see, as it says in the show, that 'The thing you’ve got to know is, everything is showbiz!'”

For information and to order tickets, visit cabrillostage.com or call 479-6154.


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