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Review: 'The Producers' is still a crowd-pleaser

Richard LaFleur, left, plays Leo Bloom and Jason

Richard LaFleur, left, plays Leo Bloom and Jason Simon is Max Bialystock in "The Producers" at the Argyle Theater in Babylon. Photo Credit: Russ Rowland

WHAT "The Producers"

WHERE The Argyle Theatre, 34 W. Main St., Babylon

INFO  Tickets, from $49, argyletheatre.com,  844-631-5483

BOTTOM LINE  The Tony record-holder remains a crowd-pleasing hit.

When the Mel Brooks' musical "The Producers" won 12 Tony Awards in 2001 (the most ever, a record that still stands), it was due in large part to the chemistry between its two leading actors. No, not chemistry of the romantic variety, rather the kind that finds two stage veterans (in this case, Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick) so in sync with each other's performances that a raised eyebrow or a quick double take could reduce the audience to showstopping laughter.

So imagine the pressure on every actor who's had to follow in those illustrious footsteps, or better yet talk to Jason Simon and Richard LaFleur, now starring in the musical at the Argyle Theatre in Babylon. As Max Bialystock, the former "king of Broadway" who of late has suffered a string of flops, Simon is a master of vaudevillian song and dance, working his floppy haircut to the max (seriously, it should get its own bio in the program). And he shines in his 11 o'clock number "Betrayed," in which he breathlessly recaps the entire play in a few frenetic minutes.

LaFleur, playing the blander-than-boiled-rice accountant Leo Bloom, gives a more subtle performance as a guy who still hasn't given up his baby blanket, though he busts loose quite emphatically in a dream sequence that puts him front and center with four towering showgirls. I would have liked to see a little more Bronx in Bialystock and a little more nebbish in Bloom, but overall their performances make for a fitting finale to the Argyle's first season.   

And they get plenty of help from a strong cast, under the direction of Argyle's artistic director Evan Pappas, with an especially fine performance from Cody Marcukaitis as Franz Liebkind, the author of the sure-to-flop "Springtime for Hitler," the play Bloom convinces Bialystock to produce so he can to bilk a bunch of little old ladies out of their investments. Also great, John Salvatore as Roger Debris, who ends up playing Hitler with such over-the-top parody (and nods to Ethel Merman) that the show turns into a raging hit. And raves for the energetic ensemble, especially entertaining as those little old ladies who do an intricate dance routine with their walkers (choreography by Antoinette DiPietropolo).   

 Based on Brooks' hit 1967 film of the same title, "The Producers" has broad and often vulgar humor and some pretty explicit sexual bits, so parents might want to think twice about bringing young kids. But naughtiness aside, this show--built on the premise of producing a flop — remains nothing but a crowd-pleasing hit.  

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