In a previous Stage Spot (BSW 7/10/2003), Jenelle Riley sang the praises of Gary Beach as he reprised his Tony-winning performance as a cross-dressing director in the L.A. production of Mel Brooks' smash Broadway musical, The Producers. There's a sidesplitting new Roger DeBris in town for the duration of the run, an actor who coincidentally also succeeded Beach as Lumiere the candelabra in Beauty and the Beast. But Lee Roy Reams is anything but an also-ran. Nominated for a Tony in 42nd Street, this Kentucky-born performer has a reputation as a first-rate actor/dancer/singer in countless musicals on Broadway (Applause, Loreli), on tour, and in cabarets. His career started as a dancer with Juliet Prowse in her New York and Vegas nightclub acts. In recent years, he's been a welcome fixture in Jerry Herman revues in venues ranging from the Hollywood Bowl to Manhattan's Rainbow and Stars cabaret. He's a frequent headliner in Herman's La Cage Aux Folles, playing another boa-and-mascara character, the prima donna drag performer Albin/ZaZa.
Brooks doubled the pleasure for this role in its transfer from screen to stage. In the film, the flamboyant director and the fruity Führer were two different characters. In true 42nd Street style, the stage version has the director taking stage to gobble up scenery as the "German Ethel Merman." Reams has played this in other touring editions and has polished it to a glittering sheen. He gets to display little of his legendary dancing prowess, but struts his comic stuff to bravura effect, keeping the shenanigans deliriously gay in every sense of the word. Reams is so effusive with praise for everyone in the business from the late Irving Berlin to Anne Bancroft, that his own turn in the spotlight seems long overdue. Springtime for Lee Roy is a most felicitous occasion.
"The Producers" continues at the Pantages Theatre, 6223 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. Tue.-Wed. 8 p.m., Thu. 2 & 8 p.m., Fri. 8 p.m., Sat. 2 & 8 p.m., Sun. 2 p.m. May 29-Jan. 4. $25-95. (213) 365-3500.