Sherwood Foundation for the Arts' winter musical, 'The Producers'
The Sherwood Foundation for the Arts is bringing comedy, music and making fun of Hitler to the big stage.
The foundation's winter musical, "The Producers," tells the story of a down-on-his-luck Broadway producer and his mild-mannered accountant. They both come up with a plan to produce the most notorious flop in history, thus stealing millions of dollars from the "little old ladies" that invested money into the show. To their surprise, their intentionally distasteful musical about Adolf Hitler singing and dancing his way through World War II ends up being a smash hit.
"'The Producers' is more than just that, especially nowadays," said Kris Heller, the show's director. "People in the world and in the United States are bringing up this nationalist rhetoric and these antisemitic views, and we have to be able to combat that somehow."
Mel Brooks, who co-wrote "The Producers," is Jewish and served in World War II as a soldier. Now 93, Brooks' philosophy is that one way to combat horrible things in life is to be able to remember them and pick them apart with humor.
When asked if it was difficult to direct a play addressing a serious topic with a comedic spin, Heller said, "Not really. … I find that the humor is easy, as long as people understand that it's so over-the-top in order to show how ridiculous it is to even follow somebody like that."
Though Heller enjoys Brooks' writing, she modernized some scenes throughout the show.
"There's a group of follies, which are dancers that used to be scantily clad women in ridiculous outfits," explained Heller. "In my show, we actually have men in drag doing it instead."
In another musical number, a male character goes around and pinches all of the female dancers on their backsides, but Heller had a different idea.
"So, I actually have the dancers pinching his butt instead of him pinching theirs," she said with a laugh. "I don't know whether it's because I'm a female director looking at it or whether it's part of this kind of post-#MeToo look at things."
For Michael Godsey — who plays Max, one of the titular producers — the musical is a way for him to branch out of his Shakespearean background. His character has to sing in about 15 songs throughout the musical, which Godsey admitted he finds "difficult."
"The hardest part for me is working on the musical parts with the orchestra and stuff," he confessed.
With over 20 musical numbers, the cast rehearsed three times per week and up to four hours each day. Godsey has been acting since he was 6, and he doesn't mind spending lots of time with his fellow actors.
"It's a really special time going through all the rehearsals and getting to know your castmates and working really hard to put together a good show," he added. "It builds a nice comradery and I've gotten to know a whole ton of good people that way."
The show has also helped Godsey step out of his shell, he said.
"Oddly, I'm actually pretty shy most of the time," said Godsey. "(But) when I step on stage, I'm just a completely different person, and that's also pretty fun."
He hopes others can let their guard down a little bit, too.
"I hope their stomach hurts from laughing, because we really hope that the comedy comes through and that people are able to enjoy themselves," Godsey said. "With all that's going on in the news cycles and everything, I find it's quite a relief to just leave that at the door and enter a different world and let somebody else entertain you."
Heller agrees with Godsey's idea of leaving problems at the door, she said.
"With pieces like this that I consider a little bit more political or social theater, I hope that people leave with an idea that there are ways to combat things in the world than just facelessly arguing with somebody over Twitter," she added.
People can see "The Producers" through Jan. 26. Tickets for the show are $17 for adults and $13 for seniors and students.
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