By Richard Schultz - Dec. 18, 2014

Hector Coris and Patrick Russo as Max Bialystock (left). Photo property of SMTC Taken by Jessica Cole.

Hector Coris, a native New Yorker who moved to Phoenix four years ago with his partner, has established a reputation for zany onstage characters.

With an AriZoni Award for directing Dirty Rotten Scoundrels at Hale Centre Theatre under his belt, Coris is taking on the legendary role of Max Bialystock in the The Producers at the Tempe Center for the Arts.

Coris shared his insights on his role with Scottsdale Musical Theater Company, with Echo Magazine ahead of the show’s New Year’s Eve opening.

Echo: What has been the challenge of taking on a role associated with well-known performers?

Coris: I am fortunate to actually remember Zero Mostel who originated the role in the 1968 film. Most people know the Nathan Lane 2005 version of Max Bialystock. It’s difficult to not to borrow anything that works so brilliantly from either movie. It’s Mel Brooks. How can you mess with perfection?

Echo: So, how do you make the character your own?

Coris: My process is not very complex. I use the text, the lyrics and sometimes the music with what I know I can do well to craft my own version of Max. It’s so brilliantly written. The road map is there to follow. My core sense of humor was developed watching Mel Brooks, Carol Burnett, Martin Short and Monty Python. I get the inflection and cadences of language, style and spirit. It’s such a testament to Mel Brooks’ genius that punchlines written 40 years ago are still incredibly funny.

Echo: How are you most like your character?

Coris: I’m very theatrical when I need to be or want to be. As an actor and director, I will do whatever it takes to give the audience the best experience. I share Max’s drive with similar means to different ends, but I can probably be as selfish as Max is sometimes even if I don’t manifest it outwardly.

Echo: So then, how are you different from your character?

Coris: In real life, I am definitely quieter and more of an observer. I save any drama for the stage. That’s what’s so fun about getting to play outrageous characters like Max.

Echo: How have you prepared for the physical demands of performing in this musical?

Coris: The role of Max is a beast. He’s hardly ever off-stage. There’s constant motion and dialogue that’s nearly Shakespearean in its comedic elegance. I completely run on adrenaline and instinct and breathe wherever I can. Max is the Zero Mostel/Nathan Lane body type, but I may have lost a few pounds.

Echo: Since Max and the character of Leo Bloom are linked so closely, how did you forgo that onstage partnership with fellow actor Matt Newhard?

Coris: I also can’t ask for a better scene partner than Matt. I’m so fortunate to share the stage with such a generous actor. We also played in other shows together. He knows how to create the perfect storm of “controlled spontaneity” and unpredictability that Mel Brooks and I totally appreciate.

Read more from Richard Schultz on The Producers at


The Producers

Scottsdale Musical Theater Company

Tempe Center for the Arts

700 W. Rio Salado Parkway, Tempe

Jan. 2-3

Tickets: $27-$42; 602-909-4215

A New Year’s Eve gala performance and party with the cast and crew will take place in the Studio Theatre Dec. 31 (tickets: $65-$145). A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Phoenix Pride LGBT Center.

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