The Producers is a “hatslokhe”

A successful Yiddish version of the popular musical

By Byron Toben

A “hatslokhe”, translated into English, is a success.

Mel Brook’s renowned 1968 film The Producers was a success.

Adapted into a Broadway and touring musical in 2001, it was a further success, winning 12 Tonys (most ever for a stage musical).

Transposed back into a 2005 musical film, it was a further success.

And now, with translation of Yiddish lyrics by locals Raizel Candib and Aaron Gonshor, its incarnation as a “New Mel Brooks Musical in Yiddish” at the Segal Centre continues its winning ways as a success.

This annual Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre Production differs from its 85 plays in 50 years in that it is in association with the outstanding community theatre Côte Saint-Luc Dramatic Society, which presented Hairspray at the Centaur last January.

The key roles are played as well as many professionals could have.

Super titles in English and French are easy to follow. Also, somewhat more of the script is in English than usual.

A wonderful live band of seven (playing 14 instruments) keeps the lively mood percolating, and choreography by Jonathan Patterson is impressive.

Direction by Anisa Cameron is also impressive, dealing with a 40-person cast of talented amateurs, who require myriad costume changes that must give stage manager Birdie Gregor an exhausting workout.

The key roles are played as well as many professionals could have.

Yiddish theatre stalwart Sam Stein is perfect as the conniving producer Max Bialystok (Zero Mostel in the earlier film and Nathan Lane in the second). Mikey Samra matches him as the mousey accountant Leopold Bloom (Gene Wilder in film one and Matthew Broderick in film two).

The naming of the accountant the same as the protagonist of James Joyce’s Ulysses is no co-incidence as a day calendar on the wall in Max’s office is pegged on June 16. Also, Leo talks of having his own Bloom’s Day celebration. I twigged on to these “in” jokes, having just reviewed Montréal’s Bloomsday week for postings of June 9 and June 19.

Jonathan Patterson doubles as the flamboyant actor Roger de Bris and Elan Kunin as the Nazi playwright who wrote the script Springtime for Hitler, chosen by Max and Leopold for production as a bound to flop selection so they can pocket millions from the oversubscribed widow investors.

Alisha Ruiss as the voluptuous Swedish secretary provides some more hilarious moments.

Yiddish theatre stalwart Sam Stein is perfect as the conniving producer Max Bialystok. Mikey Samra matches him as the mousey accountant Leopold Bloom.

Côte Saint-Luc mayor Mitchell Brownstein plays a judge in the show. His predecessor, Anthony Housefather, now M.P. for Mount Royal was in the opening night audience, as was Alvin Segal who made the Segal Centre a flourishing institution

Although this show is about devious producers and not the Holocaust, the team wisely substituted a red and white zero armband for the Nazi Swastika, in deference to the feelings of some viewers.

It is a Jewish tradition to mock evil dictators. Thus Pharaoh is derided in a number of Passover videos and the whole holiday of Purim derides Haman.

If Charlie Chaplin (The Great Dictator – 1939) and Jack Benny (To Be or Not To Be – 1941) can laugh at Hitler in film, so can Mel Brooks, still active and sharp at 90. I believe there is an invitation to him to visit Montreal to see this latest visitation of his original vision. Hopefully, he will attend.

The Producers continues at the Segal Centre until July 10.

Information and tickets at 514 739-7944 or

Images: Andrée Lanthier

Byron Toben is the immediate past-president of the Montreal Press Club

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