“The Producers” – Phoenix Theatre and “Everything Will Be Different” – Stray Cat Theatre

These reviews aired on KBAQ September 29, 2008


Phoenix Theatre
Phoenix, AZ

Two diverse but well staged theater events premiered over the weekend. For its 1,000 show, Phoenix Theatre mounts a thoroughly entertaining staging of “The Producers,” Mel Brooks’ hilarious musical based on his film that slams crackpot Broadway producers. The other show is Stray Cat Theatre’s fascinatingly dark character study of a troubled teenage girl devastated by her mother’s death, “Everything Will Be Different,” subtitled “A Brief History of Helen of Troy.” This production marks the alternative theater company’s move to the downtown Tempe Performing Arts Center.

“The Producers” became an even funnier musical. Michael Barnard’s masterful, over-the-top staging boasts a superb cast that has a ball with the vaudevillian silliness. As Max, a tacky Broadway impresario, Jon Gentry’s limber energy and artful comedic antics couldn’t be better. Also exemplary is Toby Yatso’s fine Leo Bloom, the mousey accountant who’s afraid of his own shadow. The pair’s madcap mayhem is laugh-inducing. They plan to produce the worst musical ever. They discover “Springtime for Hitler,” a dreadful show that attempts to turn the Nazi leader into an admired icon. They hope it closes quickly so they can run off with the show’s investment but the fiasco becomes a riotous hit spoof.

Surrounding the leads is Robert Kolby Harper’s hysterical cross-dresser Roger, a failed director who stages the awful show, and Beau Hickman’s swishy but laughable choreographer, Carmen. Other roles are essayed with comic aplomb. Choreographed sets change with fluidity and flashy costumes carry this show to new heights for Phoenix Theatre.

“The Producers” is a wildly amusing theater experience. It continues through October 19. For tickets, call the Phoenix Theater box office at 602-254-2151 or go online at www.PhoenixTheatre.com.

Grade: A


Stray Cat Theatre, Tempe Performing Arts Center
Tempe, AZ

The more thoughtful “Everything Will Be Different” traces Charlotte as she struggles to escape her miserable life by living in an imaginary world influenced by Helen from the ancient Trojan legend. Charlotte isn’t attractive, has an abusive father, and lacks acceptance. She tackles things that scare her by escaping into a make-believe world where everything works. This sick teenager desperately needs help. The psychological exploration is insightfully written by playwright Mark Schultz. The Stray Cat production, staged with elegant simplicity by Ron May, boasts a fine cast headed by Willa Darian’s intense Charlotte, and Cale Epps’ forceful Harry, the girl’s bizarre father. Others play people in and around Charlotte’s life and they create vivid portrayals that twist and change whether they are in the girl’s real or imagined life.

“Everything Will Be Different” is for serious theatergoers only. It continues to October 11. For tickets, call the Stray Cat Theatre box office at 480-820-8022 or go online at www.straycattheatre.org.

Grade: B