By Diana Nollen
CEDAR RAPIDS — “Great” isn’t good enough. Neither is “terrific,” “outstanding,” “excellent” or “remarkable.”
“Grand” comes close. “Superb” is overused. “Smashing” seems appropriate.
“The Producers” on stage at the rejuvenated Theatre Cedar Rapids is a smashing success.
Mel Brooks’ saucy musical opened Friday with a sold-out gala and 550 patrons in evening gowns and tuxedos cheering, whistling, applauding and standing. And that was just at the start of the overture — following an emotional video showing the theater’s path from the wrath and ruin of the 2008 floodwaters to its rebirth as a magnificent showplace rivaling anything in New York.
Everything about this production is appealing, from the top-notch orchestra led by Allen Koepke to the eye-popping costumes by Joni Sackett and the rolling and flying scenery by Bret Gothe.
And then, of course, take the singers, dancers and actors. Please.
Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick have nothing on Scott Schulte and Trevor Debth. This dynamic duo from Cedar Rapids, both veterans of TCR shows pre-flood, are back to light up stage and fill the auditorium with laughter and cheers.
Schulte is nothing short of spectacular as Max Bialystock, a nearly broke Broadway producer who discovers he can make more money staging flops than hit shows. He enlists the aid of his neurotic accountant, Leo Bloom, played to the heights of charm by Debth.
Schulte’s strength is owning a character, Debth’s strength is singing, dancing and dimples. They complement each other perfectly.
Eastern Iowa’s heavy hitters auditioned for this show, which means everyone on stage is the creme de la creme.
Katie Knutson is gorgeous as sexy Swedish secretary Ulla Inga Hansen Benson Yonsen Tallen-Hallen Svaden-Svanson. She’s got it and she flaunts it, in all the right ways. She’s a flirty flicka who sets hearts aflutter, first melting Bialystock, then Bloom.
A huge salute goes to Jason Alberty as Franz Liebkind, the Nazi-lover who writes the worst play ever, “Springtime for Hitler: A Gay Romp With Eva and Adolf at Berchtesgaden.” The title speaks volumes about Brooks’ poison-pen satire. Alberty is at his manic best leading the producers in “Der Guten Tag Hop-Clop” and generally splitting everyone’s sides whenever he works the room in his lederhosen and helmet.
All the evening’s glam wasn’t in the audience. Tim Boyle gets all gussied up for his romp as flamboyant Roger DeBris, the worst director ever, with a stable full of boys sure to wreck any show. Turns out even they can’t bury “Hitler.”
Just as the flood couldn’t bury the heart and soul of this theater troupe.
Everybody stand and cheer. And grab some tickets while you can.
“The Producers” continues through March 14. For tickets and information, call (319) 366-8591 or go to www.theatrecr.org For comments from the gala opening, go to http://thegazette.com/category/blogs/art-scene