A Backstage Look at ‘The Producers’

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Published February 25, 2016
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The Montclarion
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“The Producers” debuts Thursday night.
Photo Credit: Madison Welch

The Montclair State University Department of Theater and Dance’s production of “The Producers” is in tech week after five weeks of rehearsals as they gear up for a show that director Clay James calls full of “non-stop laughter.”

The Mel Brooks musical originally opened on Broadway in 2001 with Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick in the starring roles of Max and Leo, respectively — the same roles they ended up playing in the 2005 film. The two men devise a scheme to produce a terrible show in order to collect the surplus money they make after raising the funds for the show when it inevitably flops on opening night.

The musical opened on Broadway a few months before Sept. 11, 2001, and James says the show did a lot to boost morale among New Yorkers when it remained open even after the attacks.

“They kept [the show] going,” James recalled. “I think it helped New Yorkers find something to laugh at during a really trying time for the city.”

According to James, seeing the show at Montclair State will be like seeing the show on Broadway. The production is implementing the original direction and choreography by Susan Stroman from the Broadway show as well as the same scenic design by Robin Wagner and costume design by William Ivey Long. The costuming alone is valued at over $1 million.

One of the more breathtaking set pieces featured in the show is a 30-foot tilting mirror that is used to give a bird’s eye view of the huge rotating swastika for the song, “Springtime for Hitler,” which is an eight-minute sequence. James looks forward to this number of the show the most as well as the song, “I Wanna Be a Producer.”

Soldier dummies waiting for their entrance in the wings. Photo by Alexandra Clark

Soldier dummies waiting for their entrance in the wings.
Photo by Alexandra Clark

“It’s gonna be a lot of fun. We have a full stage of fog and special effects. Girls pop out of filing cabinets…always a crowd pleaser,” James says.

The Montclair State production features over 90 total students and a full orchestra composed of 28 students from the John J. Cali School of Music. There are also about 25 to 30 costumers involved in the show.

Deirdre Morgan, a junior at Montclair State, is the hair and makeup designer who said that costuming was definitely a challenge due to the daunting task of unboxing the more than 40 boxes of costumes shipped to them. Morgan and Nicole Ferrigno, juniors in the wardrobe department, were in charge of organizing all the costumes along with many others. Both agree that it is great to have a piece of Broadway history here at the Kasser Theater.

Maddison Albreghts, a freshman Musical Theatre major, is thrilled to have “The Producers” be her first official performance for the theater department.

“It’s really crazy to be in Kasser for my first show,” said Albreghts, a member of the ensemble. “It blew my mind to be in such a beautiful space. The process has been tiring, but it’s been fun, and I’ve learned a lot about picking things up quickly and having to do it right every time.”

“It’s the biggest show I’ve ever been a part of. It’s a little intimidating, but the choreography is a lot of fun,” said Wesley Cappiello, another member of the ensemble.

James encourages students to see “The Producers.” “It’s an audience pleaser if you want to have a great time and solid entertainment,” he said.

Tickets are selling out fast, and students can get free tickets to see “The Producers” by heading to the box office in Kasser Theater or by purchasing them online.

“The Producers” runs from Feb. 26 to March 5.

 

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