By David Dixon
One of the standout characters of the popular musical comedy, “The Producers,” is the Swedish secretary/receptionist for Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom, Ulla. Ulla impresses the comedic duo so much with a sensual audition, that she gets cast in the “doomed to fail” show, “Springtime for Hitler.”
Equally impressive is La Mesa resident Siri Hafso who plays Ulla in the San Diego Musical Theatre’s production of “The Producers” which runs Sept. 23 through Oct. 9 at Spreckels Theatre.
Before Hafso moved to San Diego, she was raised in Canada. “My great-grandparents are from Sweden and they moved to Canada,” she said. “I’m 75 percent Swedish and 25 percent Norwegian. I’m Scandinavian through and through. I eventually moved to Washington state and have been living in San Diego for close to three years.”
While San Diego Musical Theatre’s production of “The Producers” is a big deal for Hafso, she was also recently featured in a summer smash. Hafso was a performer/dance captain in the hit revival of Coronado’s Lambs Players Theatre’s musical revue, “American Rhythm.”
“‘American Rhythm’ was very physically demanding,” she said. “Although the choreography for ‘The Producers’ isn’t quite as difficult, the singing is more tough.”
For Hafso, the biggest reason the musical succeeds is because of the writing by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan. “A lot of the best jokes occur because of the way they are set up,” she said. “Many of the strongest moments come from the script.”
In addition, Hafso contributes to her humorous scenes by finding the truth in her character. “I try to put myself in her shoes,” she said.
A specific way that “The Producers” remains exciting to watch at the Spreckels Theatre is due to the use of performers who put their own stamp on the nutty characters. “It’s fresh, because there is a whole new group of people that haven’t worked together before” she said. “The ensemble members are very well cast and bring their own take to the material.”
Given that the zany night has been adapted by the uproarious Brooks, the entire cast wants to rise to his standard and to be as hysterical as possible. “Everyone tries to bring their all, because of Brooks’ involvement,” she said.
Just like the fictitious flop that Max presents early on in the script, “Funny Boy!”, Hafso has been involved with a non-hit Broadway musical, “Catch Me If You Can.”
Despite the fact that it closed less than five months after opening in New York, Hafso was featured in a critically-praised version from Moonlight Stage Productions in Vista. “The music is really unique, because it isn’t typical Broadway music,” she said. “I really love that story.”
Unlike that undertaking in Manhattan, audiences were quick to embrace “The Producers” and the frequently irreverent moments throughout the tale. “It did so well, because the dialogue makes fun of edgy subject matter,” she said. “The storyline is really unique.”
Having a fairly breezy tone and hysterical sequences allows the plot to be a massive crowd-pleaser. “There is something to be said about a musical that is truly lighthearted and funny,” she said. “You’re not going to sit in a theater and be brought to dark places. You’re going to laugh.”
In terms of timing, Hafso feels this is the perfect moment for “The Producers” to play in San Diego. “There’s a lot of stuff going on in the world that isn’t very happy,” she said. “You can come and just laugh for two and a half hours. It’s really great.”
For a performer who only recently moved to East County, Hafso has already left a big impression on theatergoers in America’s Finest City. With any luck, she will continue to rise as a well-respected singing and dancing star on stage.
—David Dixon is a freelance theater and film writer. Reach him at email@example.com.