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Monday, Nov. 2, 2009

Carte Blanche Studios Turns to ‘The Producers’

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The people who only flock to big-budget touring Broadway shows miss out on some really beautiful musical theater performed on the smaller stages of local companies. Off the Wall Theatre has been packing rather large, sometimes impressive musicals into its small studio space for years. And Carte Blanche Studios recently staged a compelling production of Cabaret that actually benefited from a smaller theater space. Beginning Nov. 12, Carte Blanche tries its hand at a big Broadway-style musical comedy with its production of Mel Brooks’ The Producers.

The story of two guys who try to make a fortune by creating a ridiculously large Broadway flop almost sounds like too much for Carte Blanche’s tiny studio space to handle. The huge title number from the deliberately tasteless show-within-the-show, “Springtime For Hitler,” presents the biggest challenge.

“We cram four people per square inch onto the stage,” jokes Carte Blanche’s Jimmy Dragolovich, “so you feel like you’re in a can of sardines singing and dancing.”

A man attempting to place 30 people on the same stage of a tiny studio theater for “Springtime for Hitler”—complete with multileveled platforms, orchestra, dancers, mirrors, etc.—could probably use some laughs. But Carte Blanche has had a remarkable track record, so there’s little doubt that this production will be entertaining as well.

Another good sign is the level of talent in the cast. Michael Traynor, whose attention to detail made for a striking performance as the emcee in Carte Blanche’s Cabaret, has been studying Zero Mostel in the original film and will doubtlessly add his own personality to the role of Max Bialystock. Jordan Gwiazdowski, who showed a remarkable talent for comedy in Carte Blanche’s recent production of Don’t Dress for Dinner, plays Max’s neurotic partner, Leo Bloom. Gwiazdowski’s comic instincts should be put to good use as the terminally uncomfortable Bloom. The sexy love interest Ulla is played by Amber Smith, who, as a French cook, also made a strong impression in Don’t Dress for Dinner.

The Producers runs through Nov. 22 at Carte Blanche Studios, 1024 S. Fifth St.