Review: Broadway magic comes to the shores of Lake Erie

By Mike Renzella | The Haldimand Press

April 18, 2024

PORT DOVER — Lighthouse Festival Theatre’s 2024 Community Show The Producers proves that you don’t need to travel to Toronto to get top notch entertainment, bringing all the laughs and memorable tunes from Mel Brooks’ iconic musical to Port Dover’s famous theatre.

The cast of Lighthouse Festival’s 2024 Community Show, The Producers. From L to R: Daniel Traina, Justine Draus, Lisa Shebib, Jaden Banfield, J.P. Antonacci, Nikki Wiltac, Mac Buchwald, Don Kearney-Bourque, Jada Dawson, Shelby Mulder, Jason Mayo, Melissa Schoeman, Lyndsey Dearlove, Naomi Auld, Charly Buck, & Carmen Davis. Photo Credit: Keri Lynne Photography.

Directed by Lighthouse Artistic Director Derek Ritschel, ‘The Producers’ is impressive on multiple fronts. From Lighthouse’s trademark high production values to a cast full of local talent, the show is sure to tickle your funny bone while you marvel at its many theatrical tricks. From snazzy dance numbers to scene-stealing Nazi pigeons, Lighthouse’s rendition shines.

‘The Producers’ first appeared in 1967 as a movie starring Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel. It was launched as a Broadway show in 2001 starring Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, who would go on to star in a film adaptation as well in 2005.

Stepping into the famed role of Max Bialystock in this rendition is J.P Antonacci, who shines as the sleazy, failed producer who cooks up a scheme with his rookie accountant Leo Bloom, played by Mac Buchwald, to get rich by producing the worst show possible.

That scheme revolves around Bloom’s observation that, as the IRS rarely investigates the books on a flop, it could be theoretically possible to make up to $2 million by selling an excessive amount of shares in the show, and then embezzling them when the show flops and cannot produce a return on investment.

Antonacci and Buchwald make for an amiable comic pairing, playing off each other’s quirks and quips effortlessly as they work to secure the rights to, and then mount a production of the worst script they could possibly find, titled ‘Springtime for Hitler’. This ramps up later in the show when they both fall for their new assistant Ulla, played by Jada Dawson.

The script for ‘Springtime for Hitler’ is a hilariously tone-deaf tribute to one of history’s greatest monsters, written by a former Nazi soldier now living in New York City and played by Carmen Davis. The best scene of the show involves Davis and her Nazi-flag waving pigeons intimidating Bialystock and Bloom as they attempt to secure the rights to produce.

The show features 16 performers, many who don multiple roles, including memorable turns as the senior socialites that Bialystock convinces to invest in the show through unconventional means, in a series of hilarious comic seductions that run throughout the play.

Also great are Jason Mayo and Don Kearney-Bourque, who play the show’s director and his assistant. Mayo ends up performing as Hitler in the titular musical, portraying the Fuhrer as flamboyantly gay.

‘The Producers’, it should be noted, is a decidedly adult show, featuring some language and scenarios that might not be appropriate for the younger set. That said, if you have laughed at a Mel Brooks film in the past (and who hasn’t with a lineup of comedy classics that includes Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, and Robin Hood: Men in Tights), then you should make it a priority to get out to Dover and laugh the night away.

‘The Producers’ runs until April 28 at Lighthouse Festival Theatre in Port Dover. Tickets are $29 at

After studying journalism at Humber College, Mike Renzella desired to write professionally but found himself working in technical fields for many years. Beginning in 2019 as a freelancer, he joined the team full-time later that year. Since then, Mike has won several awards for his articles thanks to his commitment to presenting an unbiased, honest look at the important news and events shaping our community.