This week, the Segal Centre for Performing Arts presents “The Producers,” the worldwide Yiddish language premiere of Mel Brooks’ Broadway hit. The bawdy musical comedy, with full orchestration and a cast of 40, is produced by the Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre, in association with the Côte Saint-Luc Dramatic Society. For audience members who are Yiddishly-challenged, the show features supertitles—simultaneous translations in English and French.
The Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre has produced Yiddish theatrical events in Montreal, since 1958. Director Anisa Cameron leads the ensemble of professional and semi-professional actors, singers and dancers. The play also features non-professionals from Côte Saint-Luc Dramatic Society, including the city’s mayor, Mitchell Brownstein.
“The Producers” broke box office records in 2001, and holds the record for most Tony Awards, winning all 12 of the categories in which it was nominated. With “Hamilton” winning 11 trophies this year, their achievement remains inimitable.
While “The Producers” has delighted audiences across the globe, in a multitude of languages, it had yet to be performed in Yiddish. Music Theatre International, the company that licenses the show, granted The Segal Centre sole rights to create the official Yiddish translation. Miriam Hoffman adapted the book; Raizel Candib and Aron Gonshor translated the lyrics.
Last year, Cameron, a devoted Mel Brooks fan, joined the project and has since been working tirelessly, to bring the iconic musical to life. Despite daily rehearsals and a multitude of last-minute details, she remains calm and cheery. “This is such a nurturing environment. I’m grateful to be working with these tremendous people—it’s a real joy!”
When asked if the production adheres to the Broadway play, or to the 1967 film upon which it was based, Cameron—who loves them equally—responds, “We try to be true to both… What makes ‘The Producers’ such a sell-out smash, almost 50 years later, is that it’s still such a moving story.” Beyond the scathing parody, she contends, “This is the story of two men, both lonely in their own way, both searching… two Jewish men, trying to survive in the North American world.” Along with over-the-top humor, “…there has to be a heart underneath, or all the satire feels cold.” Cameron views this production as a tribute to Brooks’ Jewish immigrant upbringing and his bond with New York’s Yiddish Theater. “‘The Producers’ was just screaming out to be done in Yiddish.”
Given the central theme of friendship, solid chemistry between the lead actors is fundamental. “I take casting very seriously—it determines how your show is going to go. When you get the right people, it all just falls into place.” After extensive auditions, two longstanding members of DWYT, Sam Stein and Mikey Samra, were chosen for the leads. From the show’s promotional clip, it is clear the duo have captured the camaraderie of Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom.
As is the case with many DWYT plays, not all the performers are Yiddish-speaking; not all are Jewish. Some speak fluently and others learn their parts phonetically, with the assistance of dialogue coaches. “It has been a real joy to see people who’ve never even spoken Yiddish, reciting full speeches.” In true Mel Brooks tradition, some of the dialogue is rather crude— not exactly The Queen’s Yiddish.
Cameron has nothing but praise for her dynamic production team, which includes Nick Burgess (Musical Director), Jonathan Patterson (Choreography), Jeremy Gordaneer (Set Design), Louise Bourret (Costume Design), Luc Prairie (Lighting Design), and Peter Balov (Sound Design). With lavish staging and vibrant sets, the team has created a “hyper-realistic look… like a comic book.”
Even in this modern era, it’s possible that some older spectators may offended by the satire. “I want the audience to have fun and always be reminded that it’s only a play.” Given that every aspect of Segal’s “The Producers” radiates the team’s enthusiasm and dedication, the show is guaranteed to delight audiences of all ages.
“‘The Producers’ A new Mel Brooks Musical in Yiddish”
Segal Centre for Performing Arts
Previews: June 19, 20, 22
Regular Run: June 23- July 10
5170 Cote Ste. Catherine Rd.