'The Producers' at LSC-PA

'The Producers' at LSC-PA

Five performances are left for the Tony Award-winning musical The Producers at Lamar State College-Port Arthur, in conjunction with Port Arthur Little Theatre. Dates for this sly and hilarious musical are July 25-26 and Aug. 1-2 at 7:30 p.m., and July 27 at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $14 for adults, $12 for seniors and students at other schools. LSC-PA students, faculty and staff are admitted free. Tickets may be purchased at the door, and credit cards will be accepted.

“It’s a whole lot of fun and a little bit of naughty,” director Keith Cockrell said. “It’s one of the funniest scripts ever written — musical comedy, straight comedy, or anything else — it is hilarious.”

The Producers, adapted by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan from Brooks’ 1968 movie, is a laugh-a-minute look at the show business shenanigans of a corrupt producer and his cohort as they look to swindle money from investors, only for their plan to go horribly — and hilariously — awry.

The show earned 12 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, when it opened on Broadway in 2001. Both its stars, Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, earned Tony nominations for best actor, with Lane winning. The show is rated PG-13, but Cockrell said that Mel Brooks is an equal opportunity offender in his comedy.

“There is something in his play to offend everyone, but he thinks everyone should be big enough to be able to take a joke, and he treats it that way — and we react that way,” Cockrell said. “Things that might normally make you clinch your jaw here make you laugh, and suddenly it’s not that bad.”

The show makes fun of the very thing it also celebrates — the theater and its exponents.

“Brooks is making fun of theater but it’s obviously from a deep love of theater,” Cockrell said. “During the rehearsals, Brooks said the producers rolled with laughter over the lines, ‘I’m a dirty rotten person but I have to be, I’m a Broadway producer.’ He expects everyone to be able to take a joke and we do — we laugh at Mel Brooks.

“The nicest thing about the PG-13 nature of the show is that Mel Brooks is from the generation that used double-entendres and euphemisms, rather than saying it straight out. You have to ‘get’ what the person is talking about. It seems so much funnier than just actually saying it.”

Set in New York in 1959, the play centers on producer Max Bialystock. When his accountant partner, Leopold Bloom, realizes that “under the right circumstances, a producer could actually make more money with a flop than he can with a hit,” the pair set out to find the perfect bad play with which to embezzle money. Needless to say, things do not go quite as planned.

Clark Reed, who plays Max, is returning to the stage after a decade directing and working as a theater teacher. He is currently production director at LSC-PA and is lighting designer for this show. Reed said playing such a gregarious person as Max is a stretch.

“He’s sleazy, he’s a dirty businessman, he’ll do anything to make a buck, he’ll do anything to make sure he stays on top and he’s completely self interested — that’s just the opposite of who I am,” Reed said, with a smile. “That makes it a challenge. I get to step out of me and be a completely different person.”

Aaron Alford plays Leo, Max’s timid sidekick. The Orange native is a student who will attend Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in the fall to study theater.

“I love this show, it’s my favorite musical,” he said. “I always wanted to play Max, but when we got to audition there were people the right age to play Max, so I figured why not be Matthew Broderick.”

The musical features Brooks’ wickedly funny songs, including “We Can Do It,” “Along Came Bialy,” “Keep It Gay,” “Where Did We Go Right?” and the show-stopping “Springtime For Hitler.”

Alford said the show appeals to people who would not normally consider themselves musical theater fans.

“Anybody who doesn’t like musical theater still likes this show,” he said. “It has just a bunch of elements in it that most people enjoy.”

The LSC-PA Theater is at 1700 Procter St. in Port Arthur. For reservations, call (409) 984-6111.