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Curtain rises again for PEMCo.

Madeline Buckley | Wednesday, February 11, 2009

“The Producers,” the popular Mel Brooks musical well known for poking fun at the Nazis, homosexual stereotypes and show business itself, will debut at Notre Dame this weekend, show director Bill DiPiero said.

“The Producers” marks the annual spring musical put on by the Pasquerilla East Musical Company (PEMCo.), joining “Ragtime,” “Footloose,” “Grease” and “West Side Story” in the repertoire of PEMCo. productions.

DiPiero said he chose “The Producers” because he wanted to do a comedy with big production numbers.

“I just think “The Producers” is the funniest musical that I’ve seen,” he said.

“The timing is fortuitous as well because the licensing rights were just made available,” DiPiero said.

“The rights were just released so there’s not a history of it having been performed at the college level,” he said. “I thought that would be an exciting challenge.”

DiPiero said he estimates the group paid about $4,000 for the rights, which includes the song numbers and script booklets.

Because some of the comedic material in “The Producers” is viewed as controversial, DiPiero said he had to meet with the Student Activities Office (SAO) and the rectress of Pasquerilla East, who oversees the group, to get the show approved.

“We had to discuss aspects of it, but in the end, we decided that it was appropriate to put on stage, despite concerns,” he said. “‘The Producers’ is a little edgy in certain ways. The main song is ‘Springtime for Hitler.'”

The group decided the comedic approach in the show dilutes the offensiveness of some of the material, DiPiero said. People will realize the mood that the show is presented in, he said.

“The show does not take itself seriously,” DiPiero said.

According to PEMCo.’s Web site, the group was started in 1997 by a Pasquerilla East resident because Notre Dame had not performed a musical on campus for over 10 years. Now, the group is the largest, student-run musical theater company on campus.

In the past, PEMCo. always has held a spring musical, and a spring revue, which is a compilation of song and dance numbers, DiPiero said. But this year, the group added a fall show, “Edges” which was shown in October.

PEMCo. is a University-sponsored group and has students from Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s from all dorms and majors.

“We’re always looking for people to help out,” he said. “There’s tons of ways to get involved, whether it’s lighting, sound technicians, etc.”

DiPiero said about 34 students are in the cast, including the main roles and the ensemble parts. Including the orchestra however, about 65 students are involved.

“The Producers” cast has been rehearsing five days a week, usually from 7-11 p.m., since fall break, when the casting choices were announced, DiPiero said.

“It’s a pretty heavy undertaking,” he said.

Spending so much time together, the cast becomes pretty close, but DiPiero, along with the choreographer, Matt Townsend, hold improvisational exercises to help the cast members become comfortable with each other, DiPiero said.

DiPiero said Townsend’s special warm-up for the cast in a dance called “flirty girl fitness.”

“We kind of get everyone and bring them closer physically and emotionally,” he said.

DiPiero said he has had enough time to polish the show, and the cast and crew have put in a lot of work. He said the show will reflect the extra effort.

“We have a very sharp and professional show,” he said. “I think people will be surprised at how clean and well done it is.”

“The Producers” will be performed Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in Washington Hall.