SWOYERSVILLE — Is Leopold Bloom cut out to be a con man?
Hmm … Just look at him, quivering, cowering and hysterical — all because a down-and-out theater guy he just met, Max Bialystock, has gotten hold of Leo’s handkerchief, which is really his security blanket.
Maybe Leo should stick to his run-of-the-mill accounting job, even if the boss chews him out for being six minutes late and bristles at any “stench of self-esteem.”
Then again, the chance to be Max’s partner in subterfuge could make up for all the excitement Leo has been missing.
“Until he met Max, he just accepted the fact his life was mundane,” said Michael Marone, of Wilkes-Barre, who portrays the mousy Leo in the Mel Brooks musical “The Producers,” staged April 28 through May 13 at the Music Box Dinner Playhouse. “Now he sees there’s more to life than rinse, repeat and pay the bills.”
“Leo has the smarts with the accounting and business experience,” said Jimmy Smith, of Dunmore, explaining why the character he portrays, Max, wants to team up with Leo. “Max has the connections.”
Together, the two will conspire to produce the worst play possible — with the worst script, worst director and worst cast — hoping it will close quickly and they can disappear with the money they will have collected from backers.
The play Max and Leo eventually discover is “the most abysmal, offensive slice of theater that has ever been put to page,” said Mike Wawrzynek, of Forty Fort, who plays Roger DeBris, “the worst director” they could possibly hire.
The so-crazy-it-might-work plan looks promising when Max and Leo persuade “the worst playwright,” a pigeon-raising, tenement-dwelling Nazi sympathizer named Franz Liebkind, to let them stage his musical. Liebkind will even play the title role in “Springtime for Hitler,” with DeBris directing.
So far, so bad. Which is good.
But when someone utters a “good luck” on opening night, a jinxed Liebkind breaks his leg. Mein Gott, doesn’t everyone know it’s dangerous to say those words in a theater?
With Liebkind indisposed, director DeBris steps in to play Hitler, and since his character is, as Wawrzynek explains it, “as flamboyant as humanly possible,” the musical suddenly becomes must-see satire.
The crowds won’t stay away. “Where did we go right?” the producers lament.
Will Max and Leo be able to extricate themselves from this Bavarian gherkin, er, pickle? Come to the show and you’ll see, cast members said.
“It feels like an old-fashioned musical,” director Dane Bower II, of West Wyoming, said before a recent rehearsal. “It’s Mel Brooks, so it’s bawdy and a little raunchy, with real genuine belly laughs.”
“These guys are great,” he said of the cast. “They go above and beyond.”
“It’s very high energy,” Wawrzynek added. “It feels like we’re running at a sprint.”
Reach Mary Therese Biebel at 570-991-6109 or on Twitter @BiebelMT.