Mel Brooks Says Time's Right for London ProducersDate: 2 February 2004
Mel Brooks was on hand at the West End’s Theatre Royal Drury Lane today (pictured) - along with American director and choreographer Susan Stroman and co-writer Tom Meehan - to launch the long-awaited London production of his multi award-winning Broadway musical The Producers to the UK industry and press. The musical comedy, based on his 1968 film classic, opens at the Drury Lane on 9 November 2004 (previews from 22 October), with Richard Dreyfuss and Lee Evans starring as crooked showman Max Bialystock and his timid accountant Leo Bloom (See News, 17 Dec 2003). Booking opens today.
Its opening comes in between two other new blockbusters for the autumn: The Woman in White (which opens at the Palace Theatre in September) and Mary Poppins (coming to the Prince of Wales in December). But, speaking today, Brooks dismissed concerns about going up against either the Andrew Lloyd Webber premiere or the Cameron Mackintosh film-to-stage adaptation.
”We’ve got a very unique show,” said Brooks. “It’s sensationally entertaining, wickedly funny and beautifully staged. I have absolutely no worries about it.” He added: “A good comedy blows the dust off your soul, and London has been waiting a long time for a really good musical comedy”, although, he warns, The Producers – which tells of Bialystock and Bloom’s attempts to scam a quick fortune by putting on a sure-fire flop, called Springtime for Hitler, that turns out to be a hit – is “absolutely not for children”.
Of his London leading men, Brooks hailed British comedian Lee Evans as hysterically “inept in body and mind….a reincarnation of Gene Wilder”, who played Bloom in the 1968 film. He described Dreyfuss, who he’s known for 30 years and originally considered as a replacement for Nathan Lane on Broadway, as a “brilliant artist and a nervous wreck” with the right kind of “manic energy” necessary for the part of Bialystock.
The Producers will soon be coming full circle. A new screen version will start filming later this year. With an updated screenplay by Brooks and Meehan, it will star original Broadway stars Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick as well as Nicole Kidman playing the part of Ulla. Stroman will again direct.
In the meantime, while in town over the past week, the US creative team have been auditioning British talent for the other parts in the London premiere production and further casting is expected shortly.
The Producers opened on Broadway in March 2001 and, with Lane and Broderick, who've now returned for a limited engagement, went on to become the hottest, and most expensive, ticket in town and to sweep the board at that year's Tony Awards, scooping 12 prizes including Best Musical.
At the Drury Lane, the show will be staged by the original Broadway creative team. Scenic design is by Robin Wagner, costumes by William Ivey Long, lighting by Peter Kaczorowski, sound by Steve C Kennedy and orchestration by Doug Besterman. The musical is presented in London by Rocco Landesman, David Ian for Clear Channel Entertainment, the Frankel Baruch Viertel Routh Group, Bob and Harvey Weinstein, Rick Steiner, Robert FX Sillerman and Mel Brooks in association with James D Stern/Douglas Meyer.
- by Terri Paddock