Imaginary Broadyway Flop “Produces” Big Laughs at Lancaster Opera House

The Basics: The Producers, A Mel Brooks Musical, at Lancaster Opera House located at 21 Central Avenue, Lancaster, NY 14088. For tickets, visit or call the Box Office at 716-683-1776. Production runs Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm and Sundays at 2:30 pm from June 7th through June 23rd.

Thumbnail Sketch: The plot is simple: Max, a down-and-out Broadway producer, teams up with his mild-mannered accountant Leo to bring a get-rich scheme to fruition by producing the biggest flop in Broadway history, bilking millions of dollars from backers (little old ladies). Only one fly in the ointment: the show is a smash hit. The show chronicles the antics of Max and Leo as they fecklessly maneuver through finding the worst script ever, the gloriously offensive “Springtime for Hitler,” hiring the worst director, a flamboyantly gay cross-dresser, and the worst actors in NY. Their misdeeds end them up in prison ultimately in this insanely funny adventure that is at its core a poignant, emotional journey of two very different men who become best friends.

Runtime: Approximately 2 hours and 40 minutes including one intermission.

The Players, The Play And The Production: The Producers, Mel Brooks’ 2001 musical comedy, is now legendary. It won 12 Tony Awards and was an incredibly massive success. I was lucky enough to live in NYC and see it in previews and subsequently over 50 times more between repeat Broadway outings, London, LA, Touring, and regional productions. In fact, just less than a month ago, I attended a brilliant interpretation by OFC Creations in Rochester. Coming into the Lancaster Opera House last night, I had high expectations. The genius that is Eric Deeb Weaver (the director and choreographer) has assembled some of Buffalo’s biggest and brightest stars here, not only in regards to the leads but the standout ensemble who more than support the leading players. Because this show is so familiar to me and the memory of just seeing it so fresh in Rochester, I found myself comparing what was being done on stage in Lancaster for most of the first act to what I have experienced in the past. I was thoroughly enjoying this production; however, the voices in my head were saying they did this in Rochester or Stroman did that when it was on Broadway. They missed a hilarious sight gag with a prop or the staging of this number could have landed more laughs or gasps. During the intermission, I was having a nice conversation with a very talented young man, who I have come to know and admire through his impressive work on the stages of Buffalo. As we were going on, my dear friend Janet’s sage words popped into my head, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” I uttered them to my seatmate, and saying it out loud made me realize that I need to stop comparing productions/performers and take in this show for what it is itself. Let it wash over me and let me be in the present. When you have seen thousands of shows and have seen several different incarnations of some of them over the last 35 years, you come into these shows with vast and intimate knowledge of their history; you have a good inclination of what you will see and will it measure up, so while I’m a most learned theater-goer, I also come with baggage. It’s imperative to purge those expectations sometimes and just absorb what is happening right in front of you now.

In that vein, this production of The Producers is a rip-roaring romp that keeps the audience in stitches for the entire evening. The acting is superb, and by the grace of God, Buffalo has the good fortune of having David Bondrow in the role of Max Bialystock. Bondrow shared with me that right before the start of the rehearsal period, he suffered the loss of his beloved Mother and then had a considerable life-threatening health-related incident right after. This man is a fighter, and the old adage “The Show Must Go On” certainly applies here. Miraculously, he was able to recover and rally to bring his take on Bialystock to life. Max is a beast of a role; one must bring a Herculean effort to tackle this one. David shines from beginning to end, sending wave after wave of vociferous laughter throughout the theater, whether trying to convince a nebbish accountant to partner with him or fending off octogenarian nymphomaniacs. His strong vocals and brash humor seemed effortless and were received extremely well from the enthusiastic audience members. His performance alone makes this musical unmissable.

John Kaczorowski is hilarious as the naive and easily corruptible accountant Leo Bloom. Where David is all saucy, bawdy fun, John brings the house down with his gawky displays of timid innocence. John wowed us with smooth vocals on “I Wanna Be A Producer” and “That Face”. The physicality of Leo throughout the show is almost cartoon-like, and I was mesmerized with the high level of energy Mr. Kaczorowski brings to this aspect of his character. The chemistry between these two is palpable and had just the right amount of push and pull. The dynamic pair were every bit complementary to each other’s performance styles, and it was sheer joy the way they lead the show together.

The rest of the cast are also faultless from Steve Copps as the eccentric ‘ex’-storm trooper, Franz Liebkind, to his stunning real-life wife playing Ulla, a Swedish blonde bombshell, to the divine Gregory Gjurich as the cross-dressing director Roger DeBris and the utterly fabulous Matt Ritler as his highly camp, common-law assistant, Carmen Ghia.

Mr. Copps as Franz playfully incorporates the perfect amount of balance between humor and insane menace with perfect comic timing. The thick German accent held strong throughout Franz’s various songs. “In Old Bavaria” and “Der Guten Tag Hop Clop” which were a hoot and showcased Steve’s highly impressive vocals.

Kelly Copps is a star; she knows how to command the stage and utilize all her immeasurable talents to great effect. As the not-so-dumb blonde, Ulla, she sexily glides on stage and not only enchants Max and Leo but the audience as well. Kelly sizzles through her rendition of “When You’ve Got It, Flaunt It.” The friendship between the two producers, characters become so sweet, especially when Max and Leo are brought together with the beautiful, funny, and honest Ulla; the trio create a warm and utterly hilarious atmosphere whenever any combination of the three interacts.

Gregory Gjurich (Roger DeBris) and Matt Ritler (Carmen Ghia) are not only out of the closet as their characters, but they are also out of this world. What a fabulous duo! The pair had the audience howling with laughter every time they were on stage. Matt really got to strut his stuff, milking every bit of humor with every gesture and word. He made many folks cackle like a Halloween witch, me included. Gjurich as Roger carries himself exquisitely in a stunning evening gown in a way that made many in the audience envious. Mr. Gjurich is a master at musical comedy, and he elevates every production he is in.

And furthermore, Mr. Hitler’s countenance will be forever altered after his extremely funny and even flirtatious portrayal of the Fuhrer in the play-within-a-play, ‘Springtime for Hitler’.

Mr. Deeb Weaver did a splendid job choreographing The Producers as well as directing it. The choreography was clever, sometimes cheeky, and polished. I appreciate that he chose trained dancers who also act and sing well to work with, and they certainly enhanced the spectacle of the show. I feel I should mention “Along Came Bialy,” which was executed perfectly by all ensemble members; each dancer had to contend with props (if you can call little old lady walkers props), fully costumed and wigged, and that number did not disappoint.

The show is fast-moving and directed with great pace, which I love. The jaw-droppingly accomplished ensemble really pack a punch. They are all slaying, not only the ambitious choreography but nailing the comedy and beautifully singing, all while managing several quick costume changes. I counted ten wig changes for some of the female performers. Usually, one or two actors in an ensemble will really stand out and catch my attention, but in this case, each and every single one is a star in their own right. I normally don’t name all of the ensemble members in shows I review, but these folks deserve to be and must be recognized. The handsome and charming men include the dazzling & awe-inspiring Glen Chitty as Bryan/Lead Tenor, the captivating & rib-tickling Ryan Butler as Scott, the jubilant, honey-voiced Joe Greenan as Scott, the uproarious Michael Wells as Mr. Marks, and the magnificent Oliver Ball in several roles. As for the beautiful, hardworking ladies, the magnetic Lizzy Arnold and the always impressive jewel that is Audree Woods as the Usherettes, the drop-dead hilarious Kristen Marie Lopez as Hold Me Touch Me, the gorgeously riotous Aimee Walker as Lick Me Bite Me, the side-splitting Lisa Miller as Kiss Me Feel Me and Shirley, a hysterically funny Emily Weber, and the extremely amusing Madison Wilcox round them out in various roles. Combined, this extraordinary cast makes this musical of musicals a must-see for Buffalo comedy and musical theater fans.

My only gripe with this flawlessly executed production is the use of the digital screen backdrops. Sometimes they work to great effect in shows and sometimes they hinder. I assume due to time or budget constraints the screens were implemented, but I felt they were unnecessary. I would have preferred more actual sets. I’m splitting hairs here because it’s the music, the laughs, and the cast that are why you want to come out and see this brilliantly funny, very lively, brightly irreverent, and thoroughly enjoyable crowd pleaser. Gregory as Roger sings the lyrics “Keep it light, keep it bright, keep it gay!” and that is exactly what The Producers does. I defy anyone not to laugh at this decadent brilliant display of sheer foolishness and not feel better for having attended. This was an absolute delight!


FIVE BUFFALO: Universal Appeal! This production is pure theatrical magic – a crowd-pleaser. No prior theatre experience is necessary. Whether it’s a laugh-out-loud comedy or a heartwarming drama, this show offers an unforgettable shared experience. You’ll laugh, be touched, or amazed (depending on the genre). Grab your tickets before they disappear!

FOUR BUFFALO: Highly Recommended! This production delivers high-quality entertainment. It may have a strong script and stellar performances. While it might not be for everyone, theatre fans and those interested in the style, themes, or genre are sure to be delighted. Gather your friends or grab a date – you won’t be disappointed you went!

THREE BUFFALO: A Solid Night Out! This solid production and enjoyable evening at the theater. It’s a strong choice for a night out. Roam over and check it out if you can!

TWO BUFFALO: Intriguing! This production may not appeal to all tastes. However, if you’re feeling adventurous and want to blaze your own theatrical trail, this production offers a unique experience. While it may have some minor imperfections, if the genre, themes, and style align with your interests you should defintely attend!

ONE BUFFALO: If you love Theatre…Although it won’t resonate with everyone, it offers a challenging and stimulating experience. Traditional theatergoers might find it difficult to follow. While it will undoubtedly spark conversation, consider the genre, themes, and style before attending.

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