Ulla in The Producers has to be one of Broadway’s most challenging roles, and young Jessica Ernest loves playing her. “It’s an awesome part,” the ingénue told me last week by phone from her hotel in Albuquerque. “The production has been going for almost an hour, every other character has been introduced, and you have to come on fresh, with no introduction, and stop the show with one number — I love it!” That number is a song called “When You’ve Got It, Flaunt It,” and it requires, according to Ernest, “singing, dancing, doing an accent, and wearing a wig.” And that’s not all. For “Flaunt It” to work, the performer has to have split-second comic timing and extraordinary stamina just to get through all the wild changes Mel Brooks has thrown into this loving send-up of big Broadway showstoppers of yore.
When The Producers arrives on the stage at the Granada this Tuesday and Wednesday, February 16 and 17, Ernest and the rest of the cast will have been performing it in all kinds of venues all over the United States for four months. As one of Broadway’s all-time most successful shows (12 Tony Awards), The Producers has been on a lot of people’s must-see lists for years, and this touring production has now given thousands of fans their first taste of the wacky world concocted by Brooks and Thomas Meehan out of Brooks’s earlier, nonmusical film of the same name from 1968. Between the show-biz in-jokes, the outrageous camp musical numbers, and the dancing Nazis, it has everything any laughter-loving theatergoer could ask for, and this production is sure to hit all the right wrong notes.
For tickets and information, visit granadasb.org or call 899-2222. While you are at it, now might be a good time to arrange for season tickets to Broadway in Santa Barbara’s spectacular 2016-2017 season, which was just announced, and includes Broadway Christmas Wonderland, Saturday Night Fever, Dirty Dancing, and Jesus Christ Superstar.