The Producers' has sex-crazed grannies, flamboyant Hilters, Nazi pigeons

Lyric brings a bevy of Broadway stars to the Civic Center stage for its production of "The Producers."

The Tony Award-winning musical is based on the 1968 Mel Brooks film of the same name, about scheming theater producers Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom, who embark on a scheme to bilk their investors out of millions of dollars by purposely staging a flop called "Springtime for Hitler." Things get complicated when the show turns out to be a huge success.

This production is directed and choreographed by Bill Burns. After three years of staging the show all over the world, he said he still enjoys its rewards.

"It's fun for me to see when the cast gets it, and for the ensemble to realize that all these wacky characters have value. So many of them have little moments where they get to shine," Burns said.

Lyric's production will feature five actors returning to the roles they played on Broadway, including Lewis J. Stadlen as the conniving Bialystock; Larry Raben as the nervous accountant turned producer Bloom; Lee Roy Reams as flamboyant director Roger DeBris; Sarah Cornell as Ulla Inga Hansen, the aspiring Swedish actress who captures Bloom's heart; and Jennifer Smith as one of the investors.

"I think with this production, we've been truly blessed with some terrific leads. You're going to see your local talent rising to the occasion and stepping up and holding their own," Burns said.

 Among the local talent is Vince Leseney, playing the "Springtime" playwright Franz Liebkind, and Matthew Alvin Brown as DeBris' assistant, Carmen Ghia.

Since this is the world of Brooks, Brown said he is certainly playing Carmen over-the-top, but that there's more to the character than caricature.

"Carmen is swishy and elegant and completely devoted to Roger, and to the theater," Brown said. "There is such a sweetness to the devotion that Roger and Carmen have for each other, so it's never mean. We aren't making fun of anything "? we are having fun with everything."

He said the opportunity to be so submerged in the craft makes the demanding schedule worth it.

"It's wonderful. It's like taking a master class every day," Brown said, adding that audiences are in for a lot of laughs. "It's really one of the funniest shows I've ever been a part of. There are sex-crazed grannies dancing, flamboyant Hilters singing, Nazi pigeons and some of the best talent from all across the world and from right here in our hometown. What's not to love?"

The Producers stages at 8 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Saturday presented by Lyric Theatre at Civic Center Music Hall, 201 N. Walker.  

"?Eric Webb