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CdA Summer Theatre to stage record-breaking musical

Thu., July 2, 2009

After 12 Tony Awards and two movie versions (37 years apart), most of us know that “The Producers” is rude, hilarious and filled with raucous Mel Brooks humor.

This musical, opening Friday at the Coeur d’Alene Summer Theatre, gave the world “Springtime for Hitler,” not to mention “Der Gueten Tag Hop-Clop.”

“Springtime for Hitler” is the fictional show that down-on-their-luck producers Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom come up with in an effort to create the world’s worst Broadway musical.

Their accounting scam hinges on the show being a massive flop. The plan all goes wrong when audiences love it.

Real-life audiences loved “The Producers,” too, giving it a 2,502-show run on Broadway from 2001 to 2007. It won an even dozen Tony Awards, still a record.

What everyone may not know is that this musical is also a massive logistical project.

“This is one of the bigger undertakings we’ve tried,” said Roger Welch, the Coeur d’Alene Summer Theatre artistic director.

Even by the standards of “Les Miserables,” which the theater mounted last summer, “The Producers” is a complex show. It has, Welch said, “a million sets and specialty costumes.”

“A million” is a slight exaggeration, but this show really does have plenty of complicated settings, including Max Bialystock’s seedy office, a prison, a Broadway theater and a tenement rooftop complete with pigeons.

Meanwhile, costumers have to come up with lederhosen, Nazi uniforms, maid outfits, Viking helmets and skimpy showgirl get-ups, not to mention all of the glitz and glamour that “Springtime for Hitler” demands.

The casting turned out to be easy by comparison.

Director Tralen Doler, a veteran CdA Summer Theatre director, just finished directing “The Producers” at Cohoes Music Hall, near Albany, N.Y. Doler managed to get a lot of those cast members to come to Idaho with him for this production, including Matthew Wade as Leo.

Local audiences might remember Wade as Marius in last year’s “Les Miserables.” Landing Wade was especially significant, because he also played Bloom in the national tour of “The Producers” two years ago. This is the role made famous by Gene Wilder in the original movie and Matthew Broderick in the Broadway show and 2005 movie.

Jerry Christakos, who played Albin/Zaza in last year’s “La Cage Aux Folles,” is also making the trek from Cohoes to play the flamboyant director Roger De Bris.

“They’ll have a jump-start on it,” said Welch.

Eric Hadley, from Portland, plays Max, the role made famous by Zero Mostel in the original movie and later by Nathan Lane.



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