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"The Producers" is a hit, even under special circumstances


Good actors are amazing people.

You’ve probably heard the stories about what happened recently in New York City when the electricity went off? Many of the actors moved their performances outside and kept the show going for the audiences who had bought very expensive tickets.

Experienced actors are trained to treat each performance as an opening night because for most audience members, it is their first time seeing it, even though it might be the umpteenth time the actors have performed it.

Professional actors are trained to deal with unexpected occurrences, and that is exactly what happened at the opening of “The Producers” being presented by the Bucks County Center for the Performing Arts in the Delaware Valley University theater, Doylestown.

During last Thursday’s matinee, there was a thunder and lightning storm. Near the end of the show, the electricity went out and everyone was shrouded in darkness with only minimal emergency lighting designed to permit safe exit. Nearly everyone stayed in his or her seat and waited to see what would happen.

Fortunately, on stage was Tony Braithwaite, one of those marvelous actors I just described. Playing the leading role of Max Bialystock, he was in a “prison cell” waiting for a trial where he would have to pay for his financial misdeeds. As he bemoaned his circumstances and berated his friend, Leo, for not coming to his aid in his dark hour, it happened: Darkness! Silence! No lights! No sound!

That’s when Braithwaite’s skill, experience and training kicked in. He talked with the audience for about 10 minutes, trying to make them comfortable as he was illuminated only by emergency lighting. He joked, laughed, was unafraid, and shortly after he excused himself to get a glass of water, the lights went back on. The music and costumed performers returned. The show went on to grateful applause and appreciation.

Braithwaite is well known locally for his work with Act II Playhouse in Ambler where he produces, acts and directs. He is very much at home on the stage. How fortunate the electricity did not go off in the middle of a production number, leaving an entire chorus line in the dark.

Howard Perloff, brilliant producer of the BCCPA, knew Braithwaite would be perfect in the leading role made famous by Mel Brooks. Perloff is a savvy producer. He brings many area professional actors to his productions. These talented performers and directors have mounted a joyful, entertaining and delightful musical. (If “delightful” can be used in a show with the song spoof, “Springtime for Hitler.”)

What I haven’t stressed is the excellence of this entire production of “The Producers.” I urge you to see it before its final matinee performance Sunday, Aug. 18.

Whether it is Braithwaite or his marvelous co-star, Zachary Chiero, as his unwitting business partner, Leo Bloom, or the sexy Scandinavian, Ulla, played sensually by Mackenzie Newbury, or any one of the delightful cast of singers and dancers who play multiple roles, each person in the cast is terrific, including Kevin Toniazzo-Naughton who skillfully portrays the lunatic Franz Liebkind who thinks he’s in Germany in the 1930s.

Director Dann Dunn has an entire column of credits. His body of work is very impressive, as is his directing and choreographing for “The Producers.”

Tom Fosnocht, who made his BCCPA debut with “Cabaret," is back, though the musicians are off stage, to bring really good music to “The Producers.”

Here in Bucks County, we are surrounded by both professional and community theaters. Performing in the plays and musicals are people you might know…talented actors and singers who can bring a story to life…a story which touches your emotions. Supporting them with your attendance is good for you and for the actors.

This is the third time I have seen a live performance of “The Producers,” beginning with the original in New York City, which opened in 2001 and played through April 2007, featuring Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick. We are so glad we saw this one.

Live theater is special, and excellent live theater is extra special. “The Producers” is extra special, and it is the final one of three shows by BCCPA this summer.

Before long, Howard Perloff will announce the 2020 season, likely to be even more exciting than the last two, if possible. Hopefully, BCCPA will soon find a permanent theater space that is all their own and they will have more flexibility in production.