(Above: Left to right, Kory Weimer, Natasha McPhaden, and Al Villanueva lead the cast of  Mel Brooks’ zany musical, The Producers, at Cottage Theatre; photo by Alana Merz)

By Randi Bjornstad

Apparently Mel Brooks had so much fun originating The Producers as a movie in 1967 that he just had to make it into a musical 34 years later, when it officially opened on Broadway (after 33 preview performances) in 2001. It ran there for 2,502 shows and won a whopping 12 Tony awards.

Local audiences now can see the Cottage Theatre’s version of The Producers through Oct 29. The plot is pretty simple: A couple of down-on-their-luck would-be producers figure out that they can make a fortune by producing a bad play that will close as soon as it opens, letting them pocket the proceeds that otherwise would keep the show running. So they wheedle financial backing from a bunch of rich old ladies with more money than they know what to do with, pick the worst script and the worst director they can find and wait for the show to quickly flop and close. The trouble, of course, is that the show is a huge hit, turning all their plans for making quick big bucks upside down.

Cottage Theatre’s version of The Producers opens Oct. 6 and runs for four Thursday-Sunday weekends at its recently remodeled facility at 700 Village Drive in Cottage Grove.

After years of experience with working on Cottage Theatre productions, this time Bil Morrill makes his debut as the director, aided by music directors Dylan Bunten and Naomi Castro, with Jaclyn Beck as vocal director. Choreography is by Janet Rust, Chris Carter and Maddie Brockman, and Jodi Arend is stage manager. The set is the work of William Campbell and Tony Rust, with lighting by Mollie Skye and costumes by Rhonda Turnquist and Kali McDonald-Kelley.

As for the cast, it’s led by Al Villanueva and Kory Weimer as the hapless would-be producers Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom, along with Natasha McPhaden as Ulla Inga Hansen Benson Yonsen Tallen-hallen Svaden-svanson. With a name like that, you know this is a comedy.

Other cast members include Earl Ruttencutter, Chris McVein, Brendan Francis, Dana Johnson, Jennifer Sellers, Chris Bond, Sherri Bailey, Quinn Branstetter, Josie Chevalier, Absinthe Holub, Michael Johnson, Katie Kincaid, Blake Nelson, Garrhett Nelson, Ava Renich, Moura Stewart, Alex VonderHaar, Janet Whitlow, and Lee-Lani Wright.

“This is a big, over-the-top musical that is perfect for anyone who enjoys irreverent comedy,” Cottage Theatre executive director Susan Goes said in announcing the play, warning that the show “is rife with ridiculous gags, and our cast is having a terrific time bringing these humorous moments to life on our stage.” She also announces that a live band will be on hand to recreate the show’s “big, bold, Broadway sound.”

The Producers at Cottage Theatre

When: 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 6-7, 12-14, 19-21, 26-28 and 2:30 p.m. on Oct. 8, 15, 22, and 29.

Where: Cottage Theatre, 700 Village Drive, Cottage Grove (just east of I-5 off Exit 174)

Tickets: $27 for adults and $15 for youths, available by telephone at 541-942-8001 or online at cottagetheatre.org; seating is by reservation, and advance purchase is recommended