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Mel Brooks' 'The Producers' takes stage at North Central
By Jennifer Wheeler | Daily Herald Staff

Curtis Stretler, playing Leo Bloom, and Keith Carlson, playing Max Bialystock, rehearse a scene from "The Producers" that opens tonight at Naperville's North Central College.

 

Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

Keith Carlson, playing Max Bialystock, and Curtis Stretler, playing Leo Bloom, rehearse a scene from "The Producers" at North Central College in Naperville. The 40-plus member cast began rehearsing in June.

 

Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

Mel Brooks' smash comedy, "The Producers," takes the stage beginning tonight at Naperville's North Central College. Audiences are encouraged to check their ego at the door because the musical is filled with colorful humor that pokes fun at everyone.

 

Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

Actor Keith Carlson and Actress Jill Morrow go through their paces in preparation for "The Producers," which opens tonight at Naperville's North Central College. In 2001, the Broadway musical won 12 Tony Awards.

 

Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

Curtis Stretler, playing Leo Bloom, rehearses his lines for "The Producers," which opens tonight at North Central College in Naperville.

 

Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

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Published: 8/6/2010 12:00 AM

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If you go

What: North Central College's summer musical "The Producers"

When: 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 6, 7, 13 and 14; 2 p.m. on Aug. 8 and 15

Where: Pfeiffer Hall, 310 E. Benton Ave., Naperville

Cost: $15 for adults and $10 for students and senior citizens

Info: Northcentralcollege.edu/showtix

During the school year, Chris and Beth Oechsel sometimes feel like bus drivers, carting their four children from one activity to the next. Everyone is pulled in a million directions and unfortunately, the activities rarely overlap.

But that all changes when summer rolls around. When school's out, the family joins together on the stage, each filling a different need in Naperville's community musical produced by North Central College. Chris and three of his children act, his wife is involved with costumes and his youngest child helps out backstage.

"If you want to be in a show, you can, and that gives us the opportunity to know ahead of time we will all be in it together," Chris said. "We don't know what parts we will get, but we know that we will be doing it together."

This year, the Oechsels are performing in North Central's staging of "The Producers," which is about two men who plan to trick investors to buy into their terribly made Broadway show in hopes of making it rich. They run into trouble, though, when the show becomes a favorite instead of a flop.

"The Producers" takes the stage at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 6, 7, 13 and 14 and 2 p.m. Aug. 8 and 15. Performances are in North Central's Pfeiffer Hall, 310 Benton Ave. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for students and senior citizens.

Director Brian Lynch said The Summer Place community theater originally planned to put on the musical, but realized it wouldn't have adequate space. It opted to give the play's rights to the theater group at North Central.

Casting began May 2, where about 180 people showed up to audition for one of the school's three summer musicals. However, because of the "colorful" humor, "The Producers" was limited to actors 14 and older.

Tons of tremendous talent showed up, making the casting process all that much more difficult for Lynch. So, he decided to double cast the larger roles, meaning each actor will be in three of the six performances.

The cast began rehearsing June 13 and has since continued to meet four times a week. But Lynch quickly saw the actors didn't need too much direction; their comedic timing was perfect and he knew their jokes would tickle the audience's funny bones.

"The mark of a good director is someone who knows how to get out of the way and let the actors do what they do," he said.

But he does warn the audience to check their ego at the door. Mel Brooks, the original writer and director, is known for poking fun at everyone in the audience and incorporating off-the-wall humor and songs such as "Springtime for Hitler."

"Just listen and enjoy the wonderful evening of outrageous comedy, leggy women and laughter," Lynch said.

Though some of the songs are lengthy and the dialogue can be tough, Chris can rely on a family member or two to help out.

"The youngest has it memorized. She runs lines with me all the time," he said.

For details, visit Northcentralcollege.edu/showtix.


About the show

In 1968, Mel Brooks wrote and directed the film "The Producers," which tells the tale of two men who are willing to do anything to get rich, including convincing investors to buy into a terribly written show. However, they run into trouble when their supposed flop becomes a favorite.

Though it was Brooks first film, he won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.

In 2001, Brooks adapted his film into a Broadway musical that won 12 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Original Score and Best Book of a Musical.