Probably the most hilarious musical ever written, Mel Brook’s The Producers holds nothing sacred, from money scams, to casting couches, to Hitler. The show follows Max Bialystock, a Broadway Producer who has seen better days (and better shows), and Leo Bloom, a nervous accountant, as they try to produce the biggest flop in Broadway history as they realize they can theoretically make more money with a flop than they could with a hit.
They think they’ve found such a show with Springtime for Hitler, which Max describes as “practically a love letter to Hitler.” They hire the worst director and creative team in town. Now, to produce the show, Max must go get the money from his bakers – a bunch of little old ladies that he seduces to get “checkies.” Spoiler alert: despite their efforts to make the show as terrible as possible, including a last minute recasting of the title role, Springtime for Hitler is a smash, and they end up in jail (but not without a bunch of great musical numbers along the way).
My experience with this show
I saw The Producers on Broadway the night before my audition for the Directing program at Marymount Manhattan College. I had been dying to see the show for years. My father was taking me down to the city for my audition, and he’s not big on musicals unless I’m in them. But he loves Mel Brooks, so he agreed to go. We laughed so hard my abs were hurting the next day. Every line, every costume, every movement, were all designed to get the best comedic bang for your buck. There’s a reason the show still holds the record for most Tony Award wins.
I loved the show, but I wasn’t sure I’d ever get the chance to be in it. At the time, I hadn’t had a ton of formal dance training, I wasn’t in the best physical shape, and I was a soprano who was just learning how to belt. There wasn’t really a role for me in the show, including the ensemble.
Cut to almost exactly a decade later, Schenectady Light Opera was presenting The Producers as the final show of their 2015-2016 season. I had more dance experience, was in much better shape, and had really strengthened my belting skills. I figured I’d audition for Ulla and see how it went, but really wasn’t expecting to be cast – if I had been asked to name my short list of ladies for the role, I would not have put myself on it. To this day, getting the phone call that I got the part was one of the biggest surprises I’ve ever received. It was one of the most fun experiences I’ve ever had working on a show, from auditions to closing night. So I had to make a dessert that paid homage to this wonderful show.
The Inspiration – The Little Old Ladies
The chorus of little old ladies who back Max’s shows are the perfect Act 1 finale. You meet one of his backers, Hold Me Touch Me, in the first scene. But you get the grand surprise of a full chorus line full of little old ladies tap dancing with their walkers to close out the first act in the number “Along Came Bialy.” It’s absolutely hilarious.
To create a dessert that honored these ladies, I started thinking about the little old ladies in my life. Most of these women have two food preferences in common: chocolate and soft foods. So what better sweet to honor them than chocolate cheesecake bites. When I used to visit my grandmother at her assisted living facility, they always had cheesecake bites for dessert at every holiday meal. So this dessert is not only inspired by a great dancing group, but a little sentimentality too.
Backstage pic of me as “Ulla” and my friend Elizabeth as “Hold Me, Touch Me”
The lace design and blue wrappers are inspired by the Little Old Ladies’ traditional costume
Backstage pic of me with my Max and Leo before places for Act 2
1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Line a mini cupcake tin (24 count) with mini wrappers (I prefer blue to represent the costume of the little old ladies), and spray with baking spray.
2. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler over medium heat.
3. Cream together the cream cheese, Greek yogurt, and sugar on medium speed until smooth.
4. Add in vanilla extract and eggs and mix on medium speed until fully incorporated. Add kosher salt and flour (sift the flour before adding) and mix.
5. Remove chocolate from the double boiler. Take a spoonful of the cheesecake mixture and stir it into the melted chocolate – this will temper the eggs and cool the chocolate so it won’t scramble the eggs in your cheesecake. DON’T SKIP THIS STEP!
6. Mix the chocolate into the rest of the cheesecake mixture on medium speed until fully incorporated. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl to make sure all of the batter is fully mixed.
7. Fill the lined cupcake tins to the top of the liners (a meatball scoop works best for this, but a spoon will work just fine too). Take a knife or spatula and smooth out the tops of each bite. Give the tray a slam on the counter to release any air bubbles.
8. Bake for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes turn off the oven – DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN – and leave the tray in for an additional 10 minutes.
9. Remove from oven and chill in refrigerator for at least 1 hour prior to serving.
10. Before decorating, place the bites on the dish you plan to serve them on (the lace design often gets distorted when the bites get moved, so decorating them on the plate helps keep the integrity of the design). Top them with lace or doily of your choosing. Place confectioners sugar in a sieve and dust the cheesecake bites with the sugar (make sure you cover all the exposed chocolate with the sugar to reveal the lace design fully). Remove the lace or doily carefully so as not to disturb the remaining sugar design. Serve and enjoy!
Yields 24 cheesecake bites. 97 calories per cheesecake bite.