Henry Players bringing laughs to McDonough

Photo by Hugh Osteen

Photo by Hugh Osteen

By Jason A. Smith


A farcical Broadway tale will take center stage in McDonough this week, as the Henry Players bring their newest dose of laughter to local audiences.

The acting group presents Mel Brooks' "The Producers," through Sunday at 7:30 p.m., each night, and on Sunday at 2:30 p.m.

The play marks the third time at the helm for director Bob Dotson, of McDonough. The show tells the tale of Broadway producer, Max Bialystock, whose career hits a snag through a series of unsuccessful productions. Bialystock's woes, said Dotson, are compounded after accountant, Leo Bloom, audits the books from the producer's last play, and discovers Bialystock spent all but $2,000 of the budget from the production.

"Max convinces him to do something to cover it up," said Dotson. "In the process of doing that, Leo Bloom says, 'You can actually make more money with a flop than with a hit.' A light bulb goes off in Max's head."

The two men, Dotson continued, agree to raise money for a doomed play, and pocket the funds for themselves. "They have to make sure they find the worst show they can possibly find, to make sure it is definitely a failure, and they find one called, 'A Springtime for Hitler," Dotson said. "It's really a show within a show."

The director added that the scene depicting the "Springtime" production proved to be a challenging task in itself. "There are more costumes, more actors, more props, probably, in that one scene than some shows have in their entire [production]," Dotson said. "It's been the most difficult show that I've ever directed. I'm the kind of person that likes to give an audience a taste of what they expect to see on Broadway. To do that, there are a lot of technical things you have to do."

Dotson said the music for "The Producers," covers a wide spectrum of genres for his cast of 30-40 individuals to perform. He commended his orchestra director, Ross Iddings, for bringing the play's tunes together in a cohesive manner.

Dotson's assistant director, Rebecca Dingbaum, is the current president of the Henry Players. She voiced high praise for the performers in the play. "We have a phenomenal cast, who have done a really good job of working really well together," said Dingbaum, of Conyers. "They've helped with costumes, they've helped with sets. It's been a good, fun environment."

She added that even after weeks of rehearsals, the material continues to bring a smile to the faces of cast members. "Some stuff you can see over and over again, and it's still funny," said Dingbaum. "But usually with a comedy, after a while, it gets old for the person who's directing it or working closely with it. That's not the case with this one. I think the audience is going to love it, and the cast is going to love bringing it to them."

Veteran Henry Players member, Damon Bohan, of Locust Grove, will take the stage for the first time in two years, after directing productions for the Henry Players. Bohan will take on the role of Max Bialystock, which was popularized on the silver screen by Nathan Lane, in 2005. Bohan said he is excited about the opportunity to step into a character once portrayed by his "idol," Lane. "He's an amazing actor, no doubt," said Bohan. "Hopefully, I'll do it justice."

Sharing the spotlight with Bohan will be Jeff Cooper, chief operating officer at Henry Medical Center. Cooper will tackle the role of Leo Bloom. "I've learned that I enjoy comedy," said Cooper, of Stockbridge. "But, the play has beautiful music in it, and the part of Leo gets to sing a couple of really pretty songs. I like the combination of singing, dancing, and the comedy. I hope the audience will leave with their stomachs hurting, just from laughing so much."

James Wojnowski, of Stockbridge, will portray Franz Liebkind, a German soldier from World War II, who is responsible for writing "A Springtime for Hitler." Wojnowski acknowledges certain themes and content in "The Producers" represent a departure from the Players' past musicals.

"This one is pushing the envelope a little bit more," he said. "It's right on that edge of being a little more risque than other shows that we've done. It's probably PG-13. If you know Mel Brooks, then you know what to expect -- his kind of humor."

Wojnowski said while some of the Players' past work contains elements of social commentary, "The Producers" is all about "pure entertainment."

"It's not serious stuff -- just something to sit back and watch, and just laugh and experience live theater the way it's supposed to be."

Joanna Griffin, originally from Morrow, will perform in the ensemble. Griffin, who now lives in College Park, said she has enjoyed the experience of working with her fellow cast members. "It's been really fun," she said. "I wish more people could be involved. There's a big community feel with this play."

Director Dotson said his expectation for audiences' reactions is twofold. "I'm hoping ... number one, that their jawbone and muscles will ache from laughing so hard, and number two, that they will be so impressed with the show that they cannot help but tell their friends to go see the show," he said.

Tickets are $12 for adults, and $10 for children and seniors, and are available at www.henryplayers.com, or at locations listed on that web site.