Mel Brooks’ THE PRODUCERS Now Playing Through March 17 at the Paramount Theatre
Jake Morrissy (left) plays Leo Bloom and Blake Hammond is Max Bialystock in The Producers. Photo credit: Liz Lauren
The Producers, Mel Brooks’ uproariously funny live musical based on his hilarious 1967 film, next in Paramount’s 2018-19 Broadway series, currently running through March 17, 2019 at Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd. in downtown Aurora.
Nobody does comedy like Mel Brooks. And nobody does shows like the Paramount, particularly when helmed by Artistic Director Jim Corti, who staged three consecutive Jeff Award winners for Best Production-Musical-Large (Les Misérables, West Side Story and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.) Audiences can expect a huge, laugh-out-loud show that looks spectacular, moving from the office, to the street, to the theater, and brings the hustle and bustle of Broadway New York right to the Paramount stage.
Corti teams once again with 16-time Paramount music director Tom Vendafreddo, while he welcomes acclaimed Chicago choreographer Brenda Didier for her Paramount debut with The Producers. Cast as the iconic lead characters are Blake Hammond as Max Bialystock, Jake Morrissy as Leo Bloom, Sean Blake as Roger DeBris, Elyse Collier as Ulla, Adam Fane as Carmen Ghia and Ron E. Rains as Franz Liebkind. The production boasts a multi-talented 20-member ensemble, an A-list design team, and per usual, the original Broadway orchestrations performed live by the 21-member Paramount Theatre Orchestra.
Paramount presents The Producers February 6-March 17, 2019: Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.; Thursday at 7 p.m.; Friday at 8 p.m.; Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and Sunday at 1 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Single tickets are $36 to $69. For tickets, visit ParamountAurora.com, call (630) 896-6666, or stop by the Paramount box office Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Paramount Theatre is surrounded by affordable parking and a variety of restaurants for pre- or post-show dining. Reminder to little old ladies: The Producers is suggested for young adults 18 years and older. Strong language, sexual humor and adult content.
About The Producers
Max Bialystock used to be the king of Broadway, but after producing one too many flops, he’s now just a has-been forced into seducing little old ladies for money. After an off the cuff comment from his accountant Leo Bloom, dollar signs go off over his head (as well as “beautiful girls wearing nothing but pearls.”) With reluctant help from Bloom, Max goes in search of the worst musical ever. Will it be a flop? It better, or they might find themselves in prison.
Who doesn’t love Mel Brooks’ original, uproariously funny 1967 film starring Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder? Or the 2001 live stage version starring Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, which got its start in Chicago and went on to win a record 12 Tony Awards? Or the 2005 major motion picture that had audiences laughing out loud? All three were the true definition of farce: “a comic dramatic work using buffoonery and horseplay and typically including crude characterization and ludicrously improbable situations.”
“Who doesn’t love a backstage musical comedy, and nowadays we all sure could use a laugh. The Producers is outrageous and over the top. No stereotype is spared!” said Corti, adding “this production is enormous – ‘Paramount-sized’! Bursts of laughter mixed with oohs and ahs are all we seem to do together in pre-production meetings. This company is bringing all the laughs, class, sass and flair Mel Brooks himself could ever want!”
Playing the lead role of Broadway producer and grifter Max Bialystock is Blake Hammond, a nationally recognized New York and touring actor whose Broadway credits include Living on Love, First Date, Sister Act and Elf. As the nebbish accountant Leo Bloom, Jake Morrissy steps into a leading role after performing at Paramount in Mamma Mia!, The Little Mermaid and Elf. Sean Blake (as Roger DeBris) performed in the national tour of Hal Prince’s Showboat and is a four-time Jeff nominee and one time winner for his countless roles at Goodman, Court, Northlight, Chicago Shakespeare and other theaters. Elyse Collier (Ulla) recently performed in Sweet Charity at Marriott, and before that, the national tour of Nice Work If You Can Get It. Aurora’s own Adam Fane returns for his fifth show as Carmen Ghia, after appearing as Flotsam in Disney’s The Little Mermaid, Mamma Mia!, Hairspray and Mary Poppins. Ron E. Rains (Franz Liebkind) regularly works at all of Chicago’s premier theaters, including at Paramount last season as Herr Schultz in Cabaret.The ensemble for The Producers features Miranda Borkan, Matt Casey, Jenna Coker-Jones, Bethany Christine Elkin, Erica Evans, Allyson Graves, Kaitlin Jempson, Christopher Kelley, Bernell Lassai, Ivory Leonard IV, Eben K. Logan, Nathan Mittleman, Jessica Palkovic, Brandon Pisano, Sara Reinecke, Jason Richards, Elena Rios, Haley Jane Schafer, Sawyer Smith, Anthony Sullivan Jr., Marco Tzunux and J Tyler Whitmer.
Paramount’s full production team is Jim Corti, director; Brenda Didier, choreographer; Tiffany Krause, associate choreographer; Tom Vendafreddo, music director and conductor; William Boles, scenic designer; Jordan Ross, costume designer; Jesse Klug, lighting designer; Mike Tutaj, projection designer; Adam Rosenthal, sound designer; Katie Cordts, wig, hair and makeup designer; Jesse Gaffney, properties designer; Ethan Deppe, electronic music designer; Jaq Seifert, fight and firearm choreographer; Susan Gosdick, dialect coach; Jinni Pike, stage manager; Nora Mally, assistant stage manager; Trent Stork, associate director; and Kory Danielson, assistant music director and associate conductor.
Jim Corti (Paramount Artistic Director and director of The Producers) inaugurated Paramount’s Broadway Series with President and CEO Tim Rater in the fall of 2011 with the critically acclaimed My Fair Lady and a subscriber base of 12,500 patrons. In 2015, Paramount’s Broadway Series became Jeff Award eligible. In the time since, Paramount has garnered 55 nominations with 18 wins, including three consecutive Best Large Musical awards for Les Misérables, West Side Story and Sweeney Todd. Corti helmed all three, and won Best Director for two of them, Les Misérables and Sweeney Todd. Paramount subscriptions have now risen above 40,000 with a record-breaking 350,000 patrons in attendance last season. Corti also directed Paramount’s Fiddler on the Roof, Miss Saigon, Rent, The Who’s Tommy, Oklahoma!, Mamma Mia!, Million Dollar Quartet and Once. A Broadway veteran, he appeared in the original New York casts of Ragtime and Candide, joined the long running A Chorus
Line and toured nationally in Urinetown, Cabaret and Bob Fosse’s Dancin’. Other career highlights include being
the only director to have two productions in the same year in the Chicago Tribune’s list of 10 Best Shows for Drury Lane’s Cabaret and Writers Theatre’s Oh, Coward! in 2009. He remains the sole honoree to have won Jeff Awards as an actor (Marriott’s Grand Hotel), choreographer (Drury Lane’s Singin’ in the Rain) and director (Paramount’s Sweeney Todd and Les Misérables, Drury Lane’s Sweet Charity and Northlight’s Blues in the Night).
Tom Vendafreddo is music director, conductor and music supervisor. The Producers marks his 16th Paramount musical. He won the Jeff Award for Music Direction for Paramount’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, and was Jeff nominated six more times for his work on Once, West Side Story, A Christmas Story – The Musical, Oklahoma! and Les Misérables. Other Paramount credits are Cabaret, Elf The Musical, Jesus Christ Superstar, Disney’s The Little Mermaid, Mamma Mia!, The Who’s Tommy, Mary Poppins and In the Heights. Other local credits include Company and Sweet Charity (Writers Theatre); On the Town and Godspell (Marriott Lincolnshire); Road Show and Shrek: The Musical (Chicago Shakespeare Theater); The Spitfire Grill (BoHo Theatre – Jeff Nomination for Music Direction); and Pump Boys and Dinettes (Metropolis Performing Arts Centre). Regional credits include Billy Elliot The Musical (Signature Theatre), Rent (San Diego Musical Theatre), Odyssey (Old Globe Theatre), Forever Plaid (Chestnut Fine Arts) and It’s a Wonderful Life: A Radio Play (Cygnet Theatre). As a cabaret artist, he has performed in Chicago, New York, San Diego and Melbourne. In 2014, he became the Founding Artistic Director of the Chicago Artists Chorale, a choral ensemble of working professionals in the Chicago theatre community. tomvendafreddo.com
The story of The Producers
The musical version of The Producers was adapted by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan from Brooks’s 1967 film of the same name starring comic legends Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder. The lyrics are by Brooks, and the music is composed by Brooks and arranged by Glen Kelly and Doug Besterman. The 2001 live stage version starring Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick got its start in Chicago, transferred to New York’s St. James Theatre, ran for 2,502 performances and won a record-breaking 12 Tony Awards. It spawned a successful London production running for just over two years, national tours in the US and UK, many productions worldwide and a 2005 film version.
Next in Paramount’s 2018-19 Broadway Series – the world premiere of August Rush
Since launching its own Broadway Series in 2011, Paramount has leapt to the top of Chicago’s musical theater scene, winning unanimous critical and audience acclaim, and an unprecedented number of Joseph Jefferson nominations and awards, including Best Musical-Large for three consecutive seasons.
Following The Producers, for the first time in its history, Paramount Theatre will produce a brand new musical, the world premiere of August Rush. Internationally acclaimed director John Doyle, who earned a Tony Award for Sweeney Todd and also staged the Broadway revival of The Color Purple starring Jennifer Hudson, will direct this new live stage adaption of the Oscar-nominated movie about a musically gifted orphan and his search for his birth parents. Performances are April 24-June 2, 2019.
For subscription information or single tickets, visit ParamountAurora.com, call (630) 896-6666, or stop by the Paramount box office Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Paramount Theatre’s Broadway Series, now in its eighth season, is sponsored by BMO Harris Bank, Dunham Fund, ComEd and City of Aurora. The Producers is sponsored by Herrington Inn & Spa.
About Paramount Theatre
Paramount Theatre (ParamountAurora.com), 23 E. Galena Blvd. in downtown Aurora, is the center for performing arts, entertainment and arts education in the second largest city in Illinois. Paramount opened on September 3, 1931. It was designed by renowned theater architects C.W. and George L. Rapp and is graced with a beautiful Venetian decor with a strong 1930s Art Deco influence. It also was the first air-conditioned building outside of Chicago. From silent films to the first “Talkies,” from Vaudeville to Bobby Vinton, from Dionne to Donny and Marie, Paramount Theatre has provided Aurora and the Fox Valley the best of entertainment for generations.
In 1976, the Aurora Civic Center Authority (ACCA) restored Paramount to its original grandeur. Paramount Arts Centre reopened in 1978, offering a variety of touring theatrical, musical, comedy, dance and family programming. In 2006, a 12,000-square-foot, two-story Grand Gallery lobby was added, including a grand staircase, new box office, café and art gallery.
In 2010, ACCA hired Tim Rater as President and CEO of Paramount Theatre. Rater’s mission was to boost the theater’s programming and audience base by transforming Paramount into one of Chicago’s top self-producing, professional Equity musical theaters. Rater hired award-winning Chicago director Jim Corti as Paramount’s first-ever artistic director. In 2011, Paramount introduced its inaugural four-play Broadway Series with Corti’s critically acclaimed production of My Fair Lady. In just six blockbuster seasons since, Paramount has leapt to the top of Chicago’s musical theater scene, winning unanimous audience and critical acclaim, and an unprecedented number of Joseph Jefferson nominations and awards, including Best Musical-Large three years in a row.
Today, the 1,855-seat Paramount Theatre remains nationally renowned for the quality and caliber of its presentations, historic beauty and superb acoustics. More than 40,000 subscribers from throughout the city and suburbs enjoy Paramount’s Broadway-quality productions at highly affordable prices, making Paramount the second largest subscription house in the nation. In addition to its Broadway Series, Paramount continues to present an eclectic array of internationally known comedians, music stars, dance events and family shows, and on most Mondays, screens a classic movie for just $1.
Paramount is one of three live performance venues programmed and managed by the ACCA, which also oversees Paramount’s “sister” stage, the intimate 173-seat Copley Theatre located across the street from the Paramount at 8 E. Galena Blvd., as well as RiverEdge Park, downtown Aurora’s summer outdoor concert venue at 360 N. Broadway.
Rater and his team also are preparing to open the new Paramount School of the Arts in the John C. Dunham Aurora Arts Center, currently under construction adjacent to Paramount. Paramount’s new school will encourage and train young actors, dancers and musicians for a culture-filled life, nurture the arts in Chicago’s western suburbs and add to the excitement, cultural and economic activity in downtown Aurora. Courses for children as young as six months will be offered with opportunities for adults and seniors, as well. Registration is currently scheduled to open near the end of 2018 for a full roster of classes, private lessons and camps in acting, music and dance to launch in 2019.
Paramount Theatre continues to expand its artistic and institutional boundaries under the guidance of Tim Rater, President and CEO, Aurora Civic Center Authority; Jim Corti, Artistic Director, Paramount Theatre; a dedicated Board of Trustees and a devoted staff of live theater and music professionals.
For more, visit ParamountAurora.com or call (630) 896-6666.