Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Richard Kind
star in The Producers
(© Ed Krieger)
Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Richard Kind
star in The Producers
(© Ed Krieger)
Every Broadway at the Bowl would benefit from direction by the famed Susan Stroman. The Tony winner has infused the vast space with energy, joy and musicality as she transfers her Broadway hit The Producers to the Hollywood Bowl for three nights with an all-star cast.

Stroman smartly compartmentalizes the gigantic stage so the cast is not required to fill every cranny. The orchestra sits on the back sides and the Shubert Theatre facade shuts off ½ the stage. Because of the smaller space, the cast doesn't seem swallowed up and instead thrive in the arena. They're wildly alive, dancing that award-winning Stroman choreography in the great musical spoof numbers like "Along Came Bialy" and "I Want To Be A Producer."

Stroman also makes great use of the large monitors, which not only act as magnifiers but also give different perspectives, like overhead shots of the Hora dance in "The King of Old Broadway" and the Busby Berkeley-esque Swastika in "Springtime For Hitler."

To tighten up the evening, much of Act II was cut, including several numbers like "Where Did We Go Right" and "You Never Say 'Good Luck' on Opening Night", yet it was the climactic "Betrayed" that was really missed. This is particularly true based on Kind's iconic performance, as he would have killed in this pastiche number and it's a shame to have lost it.

Kind captures all the sleaze and charisma necessary for the role. He masters the asides and the throwaway lines. He's larger than life and fills not only the proscenium, but the 27,000-seat coliseum. Jesse Tyler Ferguson is nebbishy fun as the schlemiel Leo Bloom. At times he feels inappropriate for the role, particularly since the Jewishness of the character is necessary to sell certain scenes, but he gives it his all.

Another actor not totally suited for the role but so game that it's irrelevant is Rebecca Romijn who can't sing Ulla's show-stopping number but is obviously having so much fun on stage that she wins the audience over regardless. She also shows off some sly dance moves. Meanwhile, Broadway originals Gary Beach and Roger Bart are seamless in the roles they made famous. They have lost none of the zest they had in 2001.

The real find is comedian Dane Cook, someone with no legit experience, who gives a hysterical portrayal as bumbling Nazi Franz Liebkind. He sings with perfect pitch, dances with ease, carries a believable German accent and tosses Mel Brooks lines like he wrote them himself. He turns "Haben Sie Gehoert Das Deutsche Band" into his audition for a future Broadway show that some smart producer is creating in his/her mind at this moment.