‘The Producers:’ Nazi, gay and loving it

Rome Jorge

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Repertory Philippines stages the comedy musical penned by Mel Brooks

STELLAR. Robbie Zialcita, G Töngi and Topper Fabregas star in 'The Producers.' All photos courtesy of Repertory Philippines

MANILA, Philippines – Stage a campy, irreverent, laugh-out-loud musical about the worst mass murderer in world history gayly romping through the Bavarian Alps in his leather lederhosen and suspenders and rewrite the history of the Second World War in an industry dominated by Jews, victims of the Holocaust.

It’s the perfect formula for success. Or failure. It all depends on which play you see:

  • The fictional “Springtime for Hitler: A Gay Romp with Adolf and Eva at Berchtesgaden,” written by Franz Liebkind, an insane ex-Nazi; directed by the cross-dressing Roger De Bris, the worst director in Broadway; and produced by failed director Max Bialystock and mousy accountant Leopold Bloom, wannabe scam artists who purposely want a surefire flop that offends people of all races, religions and genders
  • Or the real life musical about that fictional play, “The Producers” — a post-modern work of satire that garnered 12 Tony Awards; ran for 2,502 performances on Broadway; and a simply rip-roaringly funny good time

“The Producers” was written and directed by Mel Brooks, beloved by several generations of moviegoers for his irreverent spoofs such as “Spaceballs,” “Robin Hood: Men in Tights,” “Dracula: Dead and Loving It” and “Young Frankenstein.” Brooks, who was born to Jewish parents, confronted the issues of Jewish Holocuast and racism with irreverent comedies such as “To Be or Not to Be,” “History of the World: Part I” and “Blazing Saddles.”

One will have a chance to see both plays when Repertory Philippines presents for its 46th year “The Producers.” Its all star-cast includes:

  • Carlo Orosa and Robie Zialcita alternately as Max Bialystock
  • Topper Fabregas as Leopold Bloom
  • Joel Trinidad as Franz Liebkind
  • Rappler columnist G Töngi as voluptuous Swedish vixen Ulla Inga Hansen Benson Yansen Tallen Hallen Svaden Swanson
  • Noel Trinidad and Audie Gemora as Roger De Bris
  • Noel Rayos as Carmen Ghia, Roger’s “common law assistant” 

Here is the teaser trailer:

The ensemble also includes Liesl Batucan, Nelsito Gomez, Steven Conde, Tristan Cheng, Jay Pangilinan, Chino Veguillas, Leroy de Guzman, Natalie Everett, David Shawn Delgado, Mica Pineda, Shalee Vicencio and Gemini Quintos.

The musical is directed by Jaime del Mundo.

Baby Barredo serves as artistic director; Onyl Torres as musical director; Mio Infante as set designer; Natalie Everett as choreographer; and John Batalla as lighting designer.

Play within a play

MOUSY. Topper Fabregas plays the role of accountant Leopold Bloom

In the story, Bialystock and Bloom realize they can keep the money the investors have given them to produce a play if it is so bad that it closes down after the first night, like the last play Bialystock directed. They purposely recruit the worst script writer and lead actor, Liebkind, and the worst director, De Bris.

When Liebkind actually breaks his leg and De Bris takes his place as Hitler, the latter’s campy performance is so bad that audiences and critics mistake it as satire and the play becomes a hit.

Realizing that they now have to spend the investors’ money to finance the entire run, Bloom and his new girlfriend Ulla run off to Rio with two million dollars leaving Bialystock to face justice. When he is found guilty, Bloom and his new girlfriend Ulla come back to testify for Bialystock.

As a consequence, Bloom is thrown in Sing Sing Prison to join Bialystock for two years, where they produce a new musical called “Prisoners of Love.” Staged in Broadway starring De Bris and Ulla, it becomes a hit and Bialystock and Bloom are pardoned.

Knowing the real producers

SEXY. G Tongi plays Swedish bombshell Ulla Inga Hansen Benson Yansen Tallen Hallen Svaden Swanson

Many people know about “The Producers” through the 2005 movie version of the play starring the cast of the original Broadway theater hit, mainly Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick. This is a pity since the movie was horrible, failing as it did to capture the vivacity of the live theater performance. 

The theater musical itself is based upon a 1967 film of the same name directed by Brooks and starring famed comedian Gene Wilder. “The Producers” is more than just a play within a play: it is a musical based on a movie by the same director.

Judging “The Producers” simply based on the 2005 film does not do justice to the theater musical.

“It’s so funny, it will make you grow abs. It’s a mile-a-minute comedy. It’s so silly it’s fun,” swears Fabregas, adding, “There is also an intelligence to the structure. It’s a homage to old musicals. It’s like a love letter to them.”

Gemora explains, “The comedy style, it’s pratfalls, it’s slapstick. It’s like from the generation of Lucille Ball.”

Del Mundo notes, “It’s a perfect example of a screwball comedy. It’s non-stop laughter. Mel Brooks is Mel Brooks.” In jest, he adds, “I think the reason the Tony committee awarded the Broadway production 12 awards is because they haven’t seen our production yet.”

Noel Trinidad attests, “I don’t think we’ve ever done a show together [with his son Joel Trinidad] this wild. We are excited to be here.”

All in the family

The musical brings together actors of several generations and backgrounds.

Joel Trinidad, an actor acclaimed for his range, notes that this will be the first time he will share a scene singing on stage with his real life father, fellow cast member, esteemed actor and Repertory Philippines alumnus Noel Trinidad, with whom he has shared the billing in 4 plays prior.

“I grew up idolizing him. I still idolize him to this day. There’s no sense of ‘don’t associate me with my dad.’ I never had that. You know my dad? That’s great. Because he’s awesome,” attests the young Joel.

The elder Trinidad adds, “I’m really happy to do this with Joel because right now I’m more popularly known as the father of Joel Trinidad.”

Töngi notes that this will be her first production with Repertory Philippines. “Being in the theater scene quite recently, I am very humbled to be among the most talented, amazing, hardworking people. Their dedication to their craft is beyond anything I’ve ever seen in the Philippines.

“I want to be a part of that, to work with the best, the brightest and the most talented people. I’m hoping to get better as a singer, a dancer and an actress.” – Rappler.com

Repertory Philippines’ ‘The Producers’ runs from November 15 to December 15 at Onstage, 2/F Greenbelt 1, Paseo de Roxas corner Legazpi Street, Makati City.

Here are the show dates:

  • Nov 15, Fri, 8pm 
  • Nov 16, Sat, 8pm 
  • Nov 17, Sun, 3:30pm
  • Nov 22, Fri, 8pm 
  • Nov 23, Sat, 8pm 
  • Nov 24, Sun, 3:30 pm
  • Nov 30, Sat, 8pm 
  • Dec 1, Sun, 3:30pm
  • Dec 7, Sat, 8pm 
  • Dec 8, Sun, 3:30pm
  • Dec 14, Sat, 8pm 
  • Dec 15, Sun, 3:30pm

For show and ticket information and inquiries on block sales and sponsorships, visit the Repertory Philippines website

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