'The Producers' is set to debut at Hampden Country Club

Date: 3/16/2009

By Courtney Llewellyn

Reminder Assistant Editor

HAMPDEN -- The original Broadway production of "The Producers" opened at the St. James Theatre in New York City on April 19, 2001 and ran for 2,502 performances, closing on April 22, 2007. The Theater of Guild of Hampden will be premiering the musical in Western Massachusetts on March 20 at the Hampden Country Club.

"It just came off Broadway two years ago, and it's been a dream of mine to do it," director Mark Giza said. "It was written by Mel Brooks, so it's really, really funny stuff."

"The Producers" tells the story of Broadway producer Max Bialystock, the former "King of Broadway," who has been backing nothing but flops of late. Accountant Leo Bloom stops by to look at Bialystock's books and discovers that, theoretically, more money could be made with a flop than with a hit. A scheme is hatched.

"I think the role is a lot of fun," Luis Manzi, cast as Max Bialystock, said. "It's a great challenge. It's important not to mimic [the actors who have done this role before]. I had to keep the humor but not play him as Nathan Lane or Zero Mostel did."

Manzi is partnered with Nate Luscombe as Leo Bloom, and Giza said he "couldn't have asked for a better Max and Leo."

Luscombe has been involved in community theater for more than two years, but "The Producers" is what drew him to Hampden.

"I don't think any other part would've fit me," he said. "Leo is a fun part. I didn't know a lot about him going in."

Holyoke Community College theater major Ryan Duchesne is playing the part of eccentric musical director Roger DeBris. This is his first musical.

"It's surprisingly easy to make the transition from just acting to acting and singing and dancing," Duchesne said, "although my first dance is in heels."

"It's a riot," chorus member Maureen Liquori said. "I started out with one little part and Mark [Giza] added a little layer by a little layer." She will be playing three roles in the production -- a little old lady, Shirley and the dorky chorus girl. Giza called it "a jewel of a cast."

That cast has been rehearsing since January, and Duchesne said the most unique thing about their performance is the Theater Guild's cast.

Another unique aspect is how the Theater Guild is putting on its performances.

"It's theater in the 75 percent," Giza joked. Instead of the audience facing straight forward, looking at one stage, it will be surrounded on three sides. "With this set up, nobody will miss anything," Giza explained.

Kathleen Delaney choreographed the show, and Tom Slowick serves as the music director.

The Hampden Country Club will be serving gourmet bistro foods before each of the six performances. Giza said tickets are going fast for the four evening shows, but the two matinees are still relatively open.

Performances will take place on March 27 and 28 and April 3 and 4, with doors opening at 6 p.m. Matinee performances will take place on March 29 and April 5, with doors opening at 2:30 p.m.

Tickets are $40 per person and include the dinner and the show. Tickets are available by calling Deb Reardon at 566-2427.

As a special treat for those who attend opening night, Giza will be announcing the performance the Theater Guild will be putting on in 2011.