Producing 'The Producers'

Play is huge task for Pioneer Theatre

Published: Sunday, April 20 2008 12:00 a.m. MDT

Costume designer K.L. Alberts adjusts a dress.

Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News

Offensive. Tasteless. Crude.

And very, very funny.

"The Producers" opens at Pioneer Theatre Company Friday, bringing with it the usual flurry of irreverent fun for which the creator, Mel Brooks, is best known.

Here is a crash course: Broadway producer Max Bialystock has another flop on his hands. His accountant, Leo Bloom, while going over the bleak books, comments, "You could make more money with a flop than you could with a hit." With that, the two set out to produce the worst play in the history of theater, "Springtime for Hitler," and run off with the cash when it fails.

Producing 'Producers'

Many will see "The Producers" and give very little thought to exactly how much work, dollars, time and attention goes into every minute detail of a big-budget musical.

"The show cost roughly $1 million to produce when you put it all together," PTC artistic director Charles Morey said. "There's just an awful lot of people working on this thing."

Most departments begin as soon as they hear the season announced.


The sheer size of this show is what makes it difficult.

"I don't know how many individual pieces. There's probably 250 costumes or looks," said K.L. Alberts, costume designer. "I don't like to count until it's over — too exhausting."

"In the 'Producers,' there's multiples of everything. Twenty little old ladies, 20 storm troopers, 20 girls in pearls. You can't just buy one, you have to be able to get multiples of everything."

The other challenge at PTC is the short amount of build time.

"The cast is only in town three weeks before we open. As soon as the show is cast, I'll start calling the actors and theaters they've worked in and try to get measurements," said Carol Wells Day, costume shop supervisor.

Then Day, Alberts and their crew begin making the costumes out of muslin, a cheap, cotton fabric, so fittings can begin as soon as the cast arrives.

"What would be surprising is how much of the budget goes into buying shoes. It's really a large percentage," Day said.

Alberts added, "We need dance shoes, character shoes, little old lady shoes. There are oxford shoes, clogging shoes, seems like every day we order another batch of shoes."

Since PTC hires actors who are members of the union, Actor's Equity Association, new shoes are a must. Day also cites safety concerns as another reason.

"And I'm constantly trying to find new places to put shoes, too!"

Designer Alberts enjoyed working on the showgirl costumes. "I've never done something like the showgirls pieces before. At first I might have been a little timid. Chuck (director) said they need to be bigger, 'bigger pretzel, bigger sausage!'"

Those specialty costumes require a specialty staff who come from out of town to make the pieces for "Springtime for Hitler," an over-the-top look at all things German.


"You have to look at how many actors are in the show, and you figure out how many characters each actor has to be," explained Amanda French, resident hair and make-up designer for PTC.

The other big consideration for French is figuring out how each wig will be used. For "The Producers," so far there are 47.

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