(by Andy McCain, Charleston Stage Resident Actor) For Christmas, I received Mel Brook’s film, The Producers, the original. I can’t begin to describe the brilliance in Gene Wilder’s portrayal of Leo Bloom, other than mesmerizing. I wanted to explore not just the character of Leo Bloom, but how he fits into The Producers . With Leo, audiences will see how he forms a true “bromance” with Max, his courage in making the right moves with a lovely Swedish over night star, and how he learns to cherish every aspect of what makes live theatrical entertainment so wonderful to watch. A few months ago I read, Jeffery Denman’s, A Year With The Producers: One Actor’s Exhausting (But Worth It) Journey From Cats to Mel Brooks’ Mega Hit. After reading this, I was reminded of how a musical of this magnitude requires every individual a part of the production to devote just every ounce of energy and dedication to making the show a success, and it worked. Leo will remind audiences of how it’s never too late to achieve even your wildest dreams. You Can Do It! We Can Do It!
(Center: Charleston Stage Resident Actor Andy McCain as Leopold Bloom)
by Michael Lasris, Charleston Stage Resident Actor
Ever since I was 13 years old, I have been choreographing dancers for various reasons. I started my choreographic career as a junior choreographer for an annual cabaret at the Rodef Sholom Temple back home in Virginia. I progressed up the ranks until I was the head choreographer as a senior in high school. I then went off to college where I choreographed a few dances for showcases, but never did I get the chance to choreograph a large full-production musical… until now. The Producers marks the first full-scale musical I have choreographed!
I couldn’t have asked for a better cast and production team to work with! Going into this experience, as with any choreographic endeavor, you never know the level of dance ability or willingness of the cast. Luckily, this cast has risen to every single challenge that we have offered. For example, many of the dancers in the ensemble have ZERO tap dance experience and two of the largest production numbers (“I Wanna Be a Producer” and “Springtime for Hitler”) are tap heavy. Having watched their progress over the rehearsal period, I think everyone will be quite surprised with the high level of tap proficiency on the stage.
Perhaps one of the most unique challenges of this show comes from the genius of the original choreographer, Susan Stroman. In the song “Along Came Bialy,” Max Bialystock (played brilliantly by Brian Bogstad) finds himself in the imaginative Little Old Lady Land, which is flooded with all of his financial backers. Stroman saw fit to include a unique prop in the dance break of the song: walkers. So, Sarah Claire Smith (Co-Choreographer/Ulla) and I decided to continue this idea, which resulted in hours of fun rehearsals and a brand new appreciation for these delightfully insane props.
This experience has been SO much fun! Not only are the dances fun and challenging, but also the process has been a wonderfully creative progression of ideas. Because of the absurdity of the show, the choreography must match. So this no-holds-barred style of production has allowed me to truly experiment and grow. I hope everyone enjoys the dancing as much as I (and Sarah Claire) have enjoyed creating it.
(Far Left: Charleston Stage Resident Actor Michael Lasris as Roger Debris)
(Charleston Stage Resident Actor Michael Lasris as Roger Debris performing in “Springtime For Hitler”)
by Brian Zane, Charleston Stage Resident Actor
When I found out that we were switching our last musical from Crazy for You to The Producers, I was thrilled! Since I was little, Mel Brooks has been one of my favorite filmmakers of all time and The Producers is definitely up there with my favorite musicals of all time. I thought to myself, “I get to do West Side Story and The Producers, two of my dream shows, in the same season! Who could ask for anything more?” (To quote the musical we are no longer doing). Though I have had a huge passion and drive to do both shows, preparing for the part of Riff (from West Side Story) was quite different from preparing for the part of Franz Liebkind (my part in The Producers). Riff was from New York, like me, so all I had to do was turn up my New York accent a little bit. Franz is from Germany, so I had to work on that accent a little harder. Riff was a character who I could sympathize with who wanted to preserve his gang, but went a little too far. Franz is a Nazi playwright who wrote a glorified play about Adolf Hitler.
My biggest challenge in West Side Story was learning all of the athletic dancing and fitting it into my body. My biggest challenge in The Producers was taking a character with many exaggerated and unlikeable traits and making him likeable, if not two legs short of a chair. Brooks has already done a lot of that work for me, but I have added some more bits and quirks to this already loony character. The results have been fun to find and hopefully the audiences will enjoy Franz’s eccentricities! It’s been a blast doing my two favorite musicals, and it’s great to be doing a musical comedy after so many serious plays. I hope you enjoy the show as much as we’re going to be performing it. It’s going to be VUNDERBAR!
(Charleston Stage Resident Actor Brian Zane as Franz Liebkind)
(by Julian Wiles, Charleston Stage Founder and Producing Artistic Director) Recently our production staff toured the Historic Dock Street Theatre to get a first hand look at the renovations. These are on schedule and moving along. The building is going to look stunning when we return. Renovations are over halfway completed, in fact, except for the portico (which should be completed this spring), but the exterior renovations are complete!
Inside there is still a lot of work to be done, but it’s very exciting to see this grand structure coming back together. And yes, the seats will be more comfortable. There will be new comfortable chairs in the balcony, and downstairs the benches are being remade with new seat cushions and (for the first time) cushions for the backs as well. Below are some photos of the ongoing renovations shot by our Property Master Mike Christensen. You’ll also see a view from backstage looking into the auditorium. The large wooden scaffolding was put in place over the seating area to remake the ceiling. It will be removed soon.
Below is a view of the stage from overhead. Note the steel beams that have been added to strengthen the walls to earthquake the building. Most of the walls in the building have had this important seismic reinforcement which is one reason the renovations have taken so long.
Plans still call for the fully renovated Dock Street Theatre to reopen in May 2010 in time for Spoleto. Charleston Stage productions will return to the Dock Street in September 2010. We can’t wait!