The Studio Theatre cast of “The Producer” holds for applause at the end of Act One. (Kathleen O’Brien / The Times Record)

BATH — As the Studio Theatre cast of “The Producers” prepares to sing “Springtime for Hitler” for the final time, their goal is twofold – break legs and break even.   

“Oftentimes you hear of people living paycheck-to-paycheck. Well we live show-to-show,” said Marc Rodriguez, producer of “The Producers” and president of the Studio Theatre board of directors.  

Living on the edge of financial hardship isn’t new to the small community theatre. Rodriguez said the theatre never sets out to make money from a show.  

“If we can break even on a show, we’re happy,” he said. “Our goal is to pass on our passion for theatre and enrich our community.”  

The production is using Bath’s Chocolate Church Arts Center’s stage. The Chocolate Church has hosted live music, gallery exhibitions and theatre performances for over 30 years. Studio Theatre’s tale of financial struggle is one the Chocolate Church Arts Center can empathize with.   

William Lederer, executive director of the Chocolate Church, said their financial worries improved after Lederer’s predecessor, Jennifer DeChant, took on the role in 2013. In a 2013 interview, DeChant said increasing patron numbers and setting affordable ticket prices were among her top priorities.  

“Jennifer turned this place around,” said Lederer, who took on the role of executive director last July. “We are 100% doing better. That said, we are certainly not flush with cash.”  

The arts center requires about $250,000 annually to keep the lights on, according to Lederer.  

Lederer pointed to improvements and repairs that need to be made to the building itself.  

“A coat of paint is great, but there’s more work to be done,” said Lederer.  

The 2 ½-story church was designed by Bostonian Arthur Gilman in 1847 in the style of medieval English architecture. With Gothic features like buttressing, pointed arch windows and pinnacles, it is one of only two Gothic Revival churches from the 1840s in Bath.  

Now a hub for the arts, the main area of the church has become a theatre space with 277 chairs and a spring-loaded floor, making it ideal for dance performances. The annex of the church was added in 1853 and is home to a smaller blackbox theatre, a gallery space and administrative offices.  

The church hosts 50 to 60 performances per year and the gallery rotates every four to six weeks according to Lederer.  

“I’ve been handed a place that is stable and sustainable that I now have the opportunity to grow bigger and stronger,” said Lederer. “We can and will get this building to the place it needs to be. I want to see this place soar.”  

Part of what helps Studio Theatre along is its continuous actor turnover. The group experiences a complete cast turnaround every two to three years, which Rodriguez believes attracts audiences by giving them fresh faces to watch. 

“We constantly have new blood which keeps us going,” said Rodriguez.  

Rodriguez said the group chose to produce “The Producers” because of its recognizability in an attempt to draw interest and fill seats.  

“Today when everything is instant gratification, not everyone is willing to sit through a two or three-hour show,” said Rodriguez. “They want to know what’s coming next.” 

Rodriguez said the theatre group aims to focus on the actors’ experiences while being involved in productions. To achieve this, the group prefers to produce plays that help actors hone their abilities, such as “A Streetcar Named Desire” and “Talley’s Folly” by renowned playwrights Tennesse Williams and Lanford Wilson, respectively.  

While both “A Streetcar Named Desire” and “Talley’s Folly” were on Broadway and won their playwrights a Pulitzer Prize, they’re not as immediately recognizable as musicals such as “The Lion King” and “Wicked.”  

“They’re difficult to sell,” said Rodriguez. “The Producers has commercial appeal.”  

Mel Brooks’ “The Producers,” adapted from the original 1967 film, is a satirical musical comedy featuring glittery costumes, an unexpected friendship, and an upbeat song about Adolf Hitler.  

The show, directed by John Willey, follows the story of washed-up Broadway producer Max Bialystock (Zack LaChance) and his nervous accountant Leo Bloom (Greg Hawks), who has a dream of being a producer like Bialystock. After Bloom discovers a producer can make more money with a flop than with a smash hit, the pair set out to bring a sure-fire flop to the Broadway stage. They settle on “Springtime for Hitler,” a “singing love letter to Hitler” written by Franz Liebkind (Iver McLeod), a Neo-Nazi who raises pigeons on his roof. To fund the show Bialystock cheats scores of elderly women out of their money, then secures the worst director and a tone-deaf actor to play the lead role.  

“The Producers” is on stage at the Chocolate Church Arts Center in Bath through Sunday. Tickets are $15 in advance and $18 at the door.  

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