But no, the real reason was as laughable as a joke from the show. Someone, it seems, had parked in the handicapped lot just behind the theater and had neglected to set the parking brake. Lest a hatchback come bursting through the back wall of the theater during a big number, the car's owner dashed out of the auditorium, and Manley cued music director Catherine Snider to start again.
The second time around, the trumpeter's notes were pristine, and the show began in earnest.
Leading man Gary DeMattei, a Bay Area theater veteran who moved to New York but returned for the juicy role of Max Bialystock, took the disruptive events in stride and even worked a parking-brake joke into his first number.
That says a lot about Manley's production — it's slick, professional and awfully funny. This is exactly what you want from "The Producers," the 2001 Broadway juggernaut that, among other things, broke the $100 ticket barrier and scored a record 12 Tony Awards.
Brooks, who wrote the score and co-authored the book with Thomas Meehan, turned his 1968 movie into a screwball love letter to Broadway musicals, an art form he has loved since childhood. Along the way, he deployed his arsenal of crude and cocky jokes engineered to offend (or delight) just about every demographic imaginable, especially Nazis.
You don't go to "The Producers" for emotional sustenance. You go to laugh, and on that score Foothill's production delivers in satisfying ways.
DeMattei's Bialystock, the ego-saturated producer at the center of the money-grubbing story, is a leering but loveable lech whose days as the king of Broadway are behind him. DeMattei's confident comic timing makes up for a voice that doesn't always pack the necessary punch. If DeMattei occasionally seems exhausted, it's understandable. Max storms through every scene, bellowing orders, bedding old lady investors and bemoaning his sad fate.
He even gets to recap the entire show in a bravura Act 2 solo number, "Betrayed," that is guaranteed to overpower any actor unless, like DeMattei, he's got the energy level of a 10-year-old and the lungs of Ethel Merman.
DeMattei's partner in crime is Tim Reynolds as nebbishy accountant Leo Bloom, the accidental mastermind of the plot's scheme: An investor can make more money on a flop than on a hit. So if you raise $2 million and the show closes on opening night, what's to keep the two producers from taking the leftover money and running off to Rio (besides, of course, laws, morals and common decency)?
Reynolds manages the tricky task of conveying deep neurosis without being annoying. He pretty much steals the first act with his big number, "I Wanna Be a Producer," and brings some surprisingly sweet emotion to "Til Him," which is essentially his (platonic) love song to Max.
Though Max and Leo are the engines of the show, the wacky supporting roles are what really give the show its carbonated fizz, and Manley's assorted nuts are salty in the best possible ways.
Ray Joseph as Roger DeBris, the worst director on Broadway, is howlingly funny in "Keep It Gay" and especially in the Act 2 dazzler, "Springtime for Hitler," when he seemingly becomes the love child of Brooks and Judy Garland.
Joseph receives ample support from his "common-law assistant," Carmen Ghia, played with lisping relish by Sean Patrick Murtagh, who knows just how to milk Brooks' politically incorrect humor for all it's worth.
Ken Boswell's pigeon- and Hitler-loving Franz Liebkind, the composer of "Springtime for Hitler," the worst musical ever written, shows off some old-fashioned song-and-dance razzle dazzle in what should be a throw-away number that turns into an Act 2 highpoint: the goofy "Haben Sie Gehort Das Deutsche Band?" It's Al Jolson by way of Goebbels, and it's a scream.
When it comes to making something of leggy blond Ulla, able assistant to Max and Leo, Brittany Ogle certainly lives up to her last name. Her big number, "When You Got It, Flaunt It," doesn't miss a shimmy, and her sly comic timing gives Ulla's romance with Leo an added kick.
Throw in the crack comedy of Heather Orth and Linda Piccone in multiple roles, and you have a cast of ceaseless delights cavorting through sets from the recent Diablo Theatre Company production (designed by Andy Scrimger and re-tooled for the Smithwick Theatre stage by Joe Ragey).
There's a lot more than goose-stepping in Dottie Lester-White's snappy choreography, and the Broadway blasts coming from Snider's 15-piece orchestra keep reminding us that this is how Broadway used to be much of the time: fun, frothy and full of energy.
Musicals don't have to change the world, but they do have to entertain. On that score, Foothill Music Theatre's "The Producers" certainly produces.
What: "Mel Brooks' The Producers," presented by Foothill Music Theatre
Where: Smithwick Theatre at Foothill College, 12345 El Monte Road, Los Altos Hills
When: Through Aug. 16 with 8 p.m. shows Thursday through Saturday and 2 p.m. matinees on Sundays
Cost: Tickets are $26 general, $24 for seniors and $18 for students.
Info: Go to www.foothillmusicals.com or call 650-949-7360.
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