South County High School opens its production of Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan’s Tony Award- winning musical The Producers tomorrow. The Producers concerns two theatrical producers who scheme to get rich by overselling interests in a surefire Broadway flop. Complications arise when the worst show they can find, Springtime for Hitler: A Gay Romp with Adolf and Eva at Berchtesgaden, turns out to be absurdly successful.
In Part 1: meet ‘The Producers’ themselves – Cameron Powell (Leo Bloom) and Ethan Schulze (Max Bialystock).
Please introduce yourselves to our readers.
Cameron: My name is Cameron Powell and I play Leo Bloom. I’m a Junior at South County and have been with the theatre program since middle school. A few of my favorite roles throughout the years include being a quartet member in our production of Music Man and Vatelin in An Absolute Turkey.
Ethan: My name is Ethan Schulze. I play Max Bialystock and I’m a Sophomore in high school. This is my third musical and prior to this I have done three plays and three one acts. One of my other favorite roles I had was Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors.
2) Why did you want to be in this production and play the character you are playing? What do you admire or not admire about your character?
Cameron: I wanted to be in The Producers because the show is fantastic and it’s one of my favorite Broadway productions. I wanted to be Leo Bloom because he’s very comedic, which I really enjoy.
Ethan: I think The Producers is one of the funniest musicals ever. I was greatly inspired by Nathan Lane’s performance as Max, which is what sold me on the character to begin with. I admire Max for his determination. He is willing to do whatever it takes in order to achieve his goals. What I don’t admire is his greed. He wants to be on top of the world with all of his money and has no regard for anyone else.
What did you perform in your audition and when did you find out that you had the role?
Cameron: I originally wanted to be Max Bialystock when I auditioned, and, with him in mind, I sang a song called “Poor, Unsuccessful, and Fat” from A New Brain. But during callbacks, I realized that I fit Leo Bloom well and that Leo was a really funny character.
Ethan: I auditioned with a song from the show called “King of Broadway.” I chose this because last year I auditioned for The Music Man with a song called “King of New York” from Newsies, and I made a joke about how this year I was downsizing. I found out that I got the part after several hours of waiting on our Facebook page to see the cast list get posted.
What are your solos or ‘big numbers’ and what does the audience learn about your character when you sing these songs?
Cameron: My big songs are “I Want To Be A Producer” in which Leo daydreams of fulfilling his secret childhood desire; “That Face” in which Leo tries to pep talk himself out of falling madly in love with Ulla (Cara Bachman) but, despite his efforts, fails; and “Till Him,” Leo’s song that confesses how Max (Ethan Schulze) has changed his life for the better.
Ethan: When my character is first introduced he sings a song called “King of Broadway” in which he tells the audience how he was once a very successful producer on Broadway and now his shows get closed on opening night. The other song that really just focuses on me is called “Betrayed.” Without spoiling the show, I sing about how I was betrayed, which is basically a mental breakdown for my character.
What have been some of the challenges you have had preparing for your role?
Cameron: A major challenge I’ve had to face during rehearsals was abandoning my normal singing confidence to become this timid, easily-frightened, mousey character. Every day, the vocal director, Mrs. Jennifer Willard, would repeatedly remind me to back off with my singing and embrace the awkwardness of being shy.
Ethan: The hardest part is that my character feeds off the audience which we haven’t had yet so we don’t have all of the laughs. We’re onstage putting out so much energy and it’ll be a lot easier once we have some energy bouncing back at us.
What do you love most about The Producers?
Cameron: I really enjoy the amount of risk we’re taking by putting on such an over-the-edge production. The references to World War II and the flamboyancy of our cast are a few of the entertaining things that come along with putting on a show like this.
Ethan: I love The Producers because it gives you an opportunity to laugh at things you could never find funny anywhere else. I find it remarkable that a show can successfully make me laugh at Nazis. It just appeals to everyone in some way.
What character that you are not playing is your favorite and what song that you are not singing is your favorite, and why?
Cameron: I truly am a bit jealous of Kyle McKnight for securing his role of Roger De Bris, the gay director. His character is so lovable and outgoing which makes his part in the show quite important and entertaining. I like listening to one of the songs sung by Franz Leibkind (Jack Gereski) called “In Old Bavaria.” The song is very gentle yet fun because of the twist of German that Jack throws into it.
Ethan: My favorite character other than my own is definitely Roger, the gay director. He just gets to have so much fun on stage and be so dramatic, it is very fun to watch. My favorite song that I’m not in is “Springtime for Hitler” which is a very big number and an even more interesting one. The audience is going to feel a little uncomfortable during that song, and I wish I could see their reactions.
What is the best advice your director and musical director gave you about shaping your performance?
Cameron: “Embrace the shyness of your character.” I was told this many times throughout the preparation of this show by the directors and, even though it’s out of my comfort zone, I’ve been able to follow them and fully develop my character.
Ethan: Both of them have told me above all else it has to be fun for me as well as the audience. The Producers is a unique show in that the more fun the actors are having, the more fun the audience will have as well. It’s an outrageous show and we have outrageous characters and it is best kept fun.
What do you want audiences to take with them after seeing The Producers?
Cameron: I really want the audiences to enjoy this show as much as we do. I understand that The Producers can be an offensive show, but I want people to love it as much as our cast does.
Ethan: What the audiences take with them is up to them. It doesn’t matter to me whether they try to find meaning and moral in it, or just want to laugh. As long as they take away a smile on their face, I’m happy.
Anything else you want to add?
Cameron: Please come to our performances! May 2nd, 3rd, 9th, and 10th @ 7 pm at South County High School!!
Ethan: We’ve had a lot of fun putting this show together and I hope you all come to see it.
South County High School’s production of The Producers is directed by Kathie McCormally, music directed by Jennifer Willard, and choreographed by Amy Hard.