‘Keep it Gay’ with ‘The Pro­duc­ers’

GA Voice - - Theater -

Openly gay per­former Gary Beach es­ti­mates he has played the role of Roger De­Bris in the mu­si­cal “The Pro­duc­ers” some­where around 1,700 times — not con­sec­u­tively, but here and there over the years. He reprises the role again for a spe­cial At­lanta en­gage­ment, courtesy of The­ater of the Stars, be­gin­ning next week.

Mel Brooks’ com­edy, last staged in At­lanta eight years ago, is adapted from his 1968 film. In it, Broad­way pro­ducer Max Bi­a­ly­stock – fresh off of an un­suc­cess­ful pro­duc­tion – comes up with a scheme with his side­kick, laid back ac­coun­tant Leo Bloom.

They plan to in­ten­tion­ally stage the big­gest stage flop of all time and bilk mil­lions out of their fi­nan­cial back­ers, us­ing the worst di­rec­tor in New York. Said di­rec­tor is flam­boy­ant, gay Roger De­Bris, who wants to camp up the show and rewrite his­tory so that Ger­mans win WWII. What Max and Leo don’t an­tic­i­pate is that the new pro­duc­tion is a huge success.

The mu­si­cal swept the Tony Awards in 2001, set­ting a record for wins with 12. Beach won a Tony Award for Fea­tured Ac­tor in a Mu­si­cal.

He feels “The Pro­duc­ers” has held up be­cause of the hu­mor.

“Peo­ple love to laugh,” he says. “It’s very heal­ing to hear that laugh­ter.” The characters are also well drawn. “I love Roger,” he says. “He is the most bizarre char­ac­ter. I think I’ve lived Roger’s dream by do­ing this”

The Pro­duc­ers” has a ma­jor gay theme, some­thing the ac­tor has al­ways loved and ad­mired. The first act’s num­ber “Keep It Gay,” Roger’s over-the-top song with his as­sis­tant Car­men, is per­haps the gayest thing found in mu­si­cal the­ater. Ac­cord­ing to Beach, it has to be done that way.

“When it’s not done that way, it is of­fen­sive,” he says. “If it’s done right, it can be funny as hell.”

Some peo­ple find it a lit­tle gar­ish but he laughs that that is what fun­ny­man Mel ‘The Pro­duc­ers’ Jan. 25 – 31 Fox The­atre 660 Peachtree St. At­lanta, GA 30308 www.the­aterofthes­tars.com ‘Vis­it­ing Mr. Green’ Jan. 25 – Feb. 17 Stage Door Play­ers 339 Cham­blee Dun­woody Road Dun­woody, GA 30338 www.stage­door­play­ers.net Brooks en­vi­sioned.

“The Pro­duc­ers” plays well wher­ever it is staged, but a the­ater man­ager told Beach while he was tour­ing with it that af­ter the gay moment, a re­li­gious fam­ily got on the floor and lit­er­ally prayed.

“He said it was like they had seen the devil,” Beach laughs.

The show ran for six years on Broad­way and Beach was on and off dur­ing that time. He was asked to re­visit the role at the Hol­ly­wood Bowl in Los An­ge­les last year and he agreed, although his agent had to con­vince him. It was for three per­for­mances only. When he was asked to be part of the re­vival here, he agreed as well, although he is not in­ter­ested in an­other tour.

Beach said he stopped tour­ing be­cause it’s not the same as when he started decades ago.

“Th­ese days a tour is usu­ally a week here and then it’s on to a new city,” he says. “If I were 25, I am sure I would love that. But I am not – I am older.”

The per­former ac­tu­ally got his pro­fes­sional start in At­lanta. He was in the cho­rus of “Camelot” back in 1968 and has fond mem­o­ries of that gig. He also teamed in a tour here of “Leg­ends” with two real leg­ends – Mary Martin and Carol Chan­ning.

Beach is also known for ap­pear­ances on­stage in “Beauty and the Beast,” “Les Mis­er­ables” and “La Cage Aux Folles.”

He hasn’t per­formed in At­lanta for a while, but he and his part­ner went on a road trip re­cently and spent some here time, tak­ing in a lot of restau­rants.

They two live in Florida and Beach, who grew up in Vir­ginia, loves the quiet­ness and the weather — and doesn’t miss the fran­tic pace of the big city.

‘Vis­it­ing Mr. Green’

Kick­ing off its new year at Stage Door Play­ers is “Vis­it­ing Mr. Green,” a com­edy-drama writ­ten by Jeff Baron.

When an el­derly wid­ower is al­most hit in traf­fic, the young man driv­ing is given com­mu­nity ser­vice to visit the wid­ower.

At first they find some com­mon ground but their re­la­tion­ship is threat­ened when the young man re­veals he is gay.

Di­rected by openly gay Alan Kil­patrick, the pro­duc­tion stars Chad Martin and the great Theo Har­ness.

Gary Beach

Roger

Gay ac­tor reprises his Tony-win­ning role as flam­boy­ant di­rec­tor De­Bris as The­ater of the Stars brings ‘The Pro­duc­ers’ to At­lanta. (Courtesy pho­tos)

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