Lane & Evans Open Brooks’ UK Producers TonightDate: 9 November 2004
One of the year’s most hotly anticipated openings, The Producers is the second of this autumn’s “big three” blockbuster musicals in the West End. It follows September’s world premiere of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Woman in White and precedes next month’s opening of Mary Poppins, brought to the stage care of Cameron Mackintosh and Disney.
Speaking at a London press conference earlier this year (See News, 2 Feb 2004), Brooks commented on the competition facing The Producers: ”We’ve got a very unique show. 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 warned, The Producers is “absolutely not for children”.
Based on Brooks' 1968 film classic and set in New York in 1959, the musical revolves around washed-up theatre producer Max Bialystock who, with his timid accountant Leo Bloom, cooks up a scheme to make a fortune by presenting a sure-fire flop called "Springtime for Hitler".
The Producers opened on Broadway in 2001 and, with its original stars Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick as Bialystock and Bloom, 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 and Best Actor in a Musical for Lane.
In a last-minute change to UK casting, Lane will now reprise his role in the UK, for a limited season until 8 January 2005. He was brought in last month when the original London Bialystock, Hollywood’s Richard Dreyfuss, was dramatically forced to withdraw just four days before preview performances began (See News, 19 Oct 2004).
The UK cast also features comedian Lee Evans (as Leo Bloom), seen earlier this year opposite Michael Gambon in the West End revival of Samuel Beckett’s Endgame, Leigh Zimmerman (Ulla), Conleth Hill (Roger De Bris), Nicolas Colicos (Franz Liebkind) and James Dreyfus (Carmen Ghia).
The show has music and lyrics by Mel Brooks, with a book by Brooks and Thomas Meehan. The London production reunites director and choreographer Susan Stroman with the rest of 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 the West End 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. Ahead of tonight’s opening, The Producers has already extended its booking period at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane by six months, taking it up to 29 October 2005 (See News, 2 Nov 2004).
- by Terri Paddock