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Right place, right time for ‘Producers’ actor
Jesse Coleman landed as big a part in a nationally touring musical as one could have hoped for being fresh out of college. As luck would have it, as Coleman was finishing his stay at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, a casting agent was there auditing a class and teaching another. Coleman passed along his headshot and resume.
To his surprise, the casting agent remembered him and called back with a job in Mel Brooks’ “The Producers.”
Coleman got the part of Franz, the German nationalist playwright whose work is the farce that is supposed to flop and somehow lead to riches for the two leads, Max and Leo. For those familiar with the recent movie based on Brooks’ Broadway musical, Will Ferrell played Franz, the character who brings new meaning to the theater line “break a leg.”
“Coming into the show was a little intimidating, filling some big shoes,” said Coleman, who joined the tour in September. “But it’s been an absolute blast. It’s a fun show.”
The show centers on shyster producer Max Bialystock (played by Jason Simon), who woos little ol’ ladies for money to produce his plays, and creative accountant Leo Bloom (Austin Owen). Along the way, they encounter Ulla (Elizabeth Pawlowski), the Swedish bombshell looking to audition; they hire Roger De Bris (Brad Nacht), the worst director imaginable, who is assisted by Carmen Ghia (John West); and Franz, whose “Springtime for Hitler” is somehow going to make them rich, Bloom decides, by being such a bomb. As Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick showed on Broadway and in the recent film, chemistry between Bialystock and Bloom is everything.
“For my first professional show, I could not be part of a better case,” the 22-year-old Coleman said. “Jason and Austin are immensely talented, there is a lot of chemistry between them. I’m impressed and humbled by everyone in the cast. Elizabeth is just fantastic as Ulla. She’s gorgeous, she can sing, she’s a wonderful actor. I’m immensely lucky to even be a part of this cast.”
Coleman, who said he plans to move to New York after the tour ends in late June, said he was familiar with Brooks’ original 1968 movie, and also knew the soundtrack of the musical, with Brad Oscar singing Franz. “I used those as starting points for the character.”
Leigh Constantine and Nigel West, contemporaries of “The Producers” choreographer Susan Stroman, worked with this cast. Constantine performed in the West End production. “She literally played every part in the play at some point,” Coleman said.
7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, May 15, 16 and 17. Robinson Center
Music Hall, Markham and Broadway.
$20-$54. Via Celebrity Attractions, 244-8800,
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