The Producers (musical)
Original Broadway Playbill
|Basis||Mel Brooks's 1968 film
2002 U.S. National tour
2004 West End
2007 UK Tour
|Awards||Tony Award for Best Musical
Tony Award for Best Book
Tony Award for Best Score
Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Musical
Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Book of a Musical
Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album
Olivier Award for Best New Musical
The Producers is a musical adapted by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan from Brooks' 1968 film of the same name, with lyrics written by Brooks and music composed by Brooks and arranged by Glen Kelly and Doug Besterman. As in the film, the story concerns two theatrical producers who scheme to get rich by overselling interests in a Broadway flop. Complications arise when the show unexpectedly turns out to be successful. The humor of the show draws on ridiculous accents, caricatures of homosexuals and Nazis, and many show business in-jokes.
After 33 previews, the original Broadway production opened at the St. James Theatre on April 19, 2001, starring Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, and ran for 2,502 performances, winning a record-breaking 12 Tony Awards. It spawned a successful London production running for just over two years, US national tours, many productions worldwide and a 2005 film version.
- 1 Background
- 2 Plot
- 3 Musical numbers
- 4 Characters and original Broadway cast
- 5 West End (2004–2007)
- 6 Notable subsequent productions
- 7 Film adaptation
- 8 Popular culture
- 9 Awards and nominations
- 10 References
- 11 External links
David Geffen persuaded Mel Brooks to turn his movie into a stage musical. When Brooks met with Jerry Herman to discuss their working together, Herman declined, telling Brooks that he should do the job himself, as he was a good songwriter. Brooks then asked Thomas Meehan to join him in writing the book for the stage. Brooks persuaded Mike Ockrent and his wife Susan Stroman to join the creative team as director and choreographer. After Ockrent's death in 1999, Stroman agreed to continue as both director and choreographer.
In New York in 1959, Max Bialystock opens "Funny Boy", a musical version of Hamlet ("Opening Night"). It is terrible, and the show closes after one performance. Max, who was once called the King of Broadway, tells a crowd of down-and-outs of his past achievements and vows to return to form ("King of Broadway").
The next day, Leo Bloom, a mousy accountant, comes to Max's office to audit his books. When one of Max's "investors" arrives, Max tells Leo to wait in the bathroom until she leaves. The investor is a little old lady. She plays a sex game with Max, who eventually persuades her to give him a check to be invested in his next play, to be called "Cash". Leo reveals his lifelong dream: he's always wanted to be a Broadway producer. After a panic attack when Max touches his blue blanket, Leo tells Max that he has found an accounting error in his books: Max raised $100,000 for "Funny Boy", but the play only cost $98,000. Max begs Leo to cook the books to hide the discrepancy. Leo reluctantly agrees. After some calculations, he realizes that "under the right circumstances, a producer could actually make more money with a flop than he can with a hit. ... You could've raised a million dollars, put on your $100,000 flop, and kept the rest!" Max proposes the ultimate scheme:
Step 1: We find the worst play ever written.
Step 2: We hire the worst director in town.
Step 3: We raise two million dollars. ... One for me, one for you. There's a lot of little old ladies out there!
Step 4: We hire the worst actors in New York and open on Broadway and before you can say
Step 5: We close on Broadway, take our two million, and go to Rio.
However, Leo refuses to help Max with his scheme ("We Can Do It"). When he arrives at work 6 minutes late, Leo's horrid boss, Mr. Marks, reminds him that he is a nobody. While he and his miserable co-workers slave over accounts, Leo daydreams of becoming a Broadway producer ("I Wanna Be a Producer"). He realizes that his job is terrible, quits, and returns to Max ("We Can Do It" (reprise)). The next day, they look for the worst play ever written. Finally, Max finds the sure-fire flop that would offend people of all races, creeds, and religions: Springtime for Hitler: A Gay Romp with Adolf and Eva at Berchtesgaden written by Franz Liebkind, which Max describes as "a love letter to Hitler". They go to the playwright's home in Greenwich Village to get the rights to the play. Ex-Nazi Franz is on the roof of his tenement with his pigeons reminiscing about the grand old days ("In Old Bavaria"). The producers get him to sign their contract by joining him in singing Adolf Hitler's favourite tune ("Der Guten Tag Hop Clop") and reciting the Siegfried Oath, promising never to dishonor "the spirit and the memory of Adolf Elizabeth Hitler", if broken means 'death'.
Next, they go to the townhouse of flamboyant homosexual Roger De Bris, the worst director in New York. At first, Roger and his "common law-assistant" Carmen Ghia decline the offer to direct because of the serious subject matter ("Keep It Gay"). After much persuading and invoking the possibility of a Tony award, Roger agrees and tells them the second act must be rewritten so the Germans win World War II. Max and Leo return to the office to meet a Swedish bombshell who wants to audition for their next play: Ulla Inga Hansen Benson Yansen Tallen Hallen Svaden Swanson. She auditions for them ("When You've Got It, Flaunt It"). The producers are impressed, mostly by her beauty, and hire her to be their "secretary-slash-receptionist". Max leaves to raise two million dollars for "Springtime for Hitler" by calling on all the little old ladies in New York ("Along Came Bialy"), which he does ("Act I Finale").
Leo and Ulla are left alone in Max's office (redecorated by Ulla), and they start to fall in love ("That Face"). Max walks in and sees the perfect form of Ulla's covered behind ("That Face" (reprise)).
At the auditions for the title role, Hitler, one terrible actor after another is rejected by Roger in summary fashion. Finally, Franz performs his own jazzy rendition of "Haben Sie Gehört Das Deutsche Band", at the end of which Max stands up and shouts, "That's our Hitler!". Opening night arrives ("It's Bad Luck to Say 'Good Luck' on Opening Night"). At the last moment, Franz falls down the stairs and breaks his leg. Roger is the only one who knows the part of Hitler, and he rushes to the dressing room to get ready. The curtain rises, and Max and Leo watch the theatrical disaster unfold ("Springtime for Hitler"). Unfortunately, Roger's performance is so camp and outrageous, the audience mistakes it for satire, and the show becomes the talk of the town. Back at the office, Max and Leo are near-suicidal ("Where Did We Go Right?"). Roger and Carmen come to congratulate them, only to find them fighting. Franz bursts in, waving a pistol, outraged by Roger's portrayal of his beloved Führer, since he took his own advice of keeping people happy quite too seriously. Cowardly Max suggests that he shoot the actors, not the producers. The police hear the commotion and take into custody Franz, who breaks his other leg trying to escape, Max, and the accounting books. Leo hides; Ulla finds him and persuades him to take the two million dollars and run off to Rio with her.
In jail awaiting trial, Max receives a postcard from Leo and feeling betrayed, recounts the whole show including the intermission ("Betrayed"). At his trial, Max is found "incredibly guilty"; but the now-married Leo and Ulla arrive to tell the judge that Max is a good man who has never hurt anyone despite his swindling ("'Till Him"). The judge is touched by this and decides not to separate the partners, sending both (plus Franz) to Sing Sing prison for 5 years. In prison, they write a new musical entitled "Prisoners of Love", which goes to Broadway ("Prisoners of Love") (starring Roger and Ulla), and they are pardoned by the Governor. Leo and Max become the kings of Broadway and walk off into the sunset ("Leo & Max"). Everyone comes back for one last song, telling the audience that they have to leave ("Goodbye").
Differences between the 1968 film and stage musical
Although the musical includes many scenes and jokes taken from the film, there are many differences. The film was set in the present day of its year of release, 1968. The musical was set in 1959, consequently the character Lorenzo St. Dubois (LSD), a hippie who played Hitler, was omitted from the 2001 musical. In the original film, Max & Leo seek to procure $1,000,000; in the musical it has become $2,000,000 ("one for me, one for you. There's a lotta little old ladies out there!"). Ulla has a much larger role in the musical and is a three-dimensional character instead of the mindless bimbo of the 1968 movie. Even the Nazi playwright Franz Liebkind is portrayed more sympathetically and comes to a happier ending than his 1968 counterpart. Overall, the musical is much more upbeat than the original film, which was a darker comedy though with a happy ending.
Characters and original Broadway cast
- Max Bialystock – Nathan Lane
- Leopold "Leo" Bloom – Matthew Broderick
- Roger De Bris – Gary Beach
- Carmen Ghia – Roger Bart
- Ulla Inga Hansen Benson Yansen Tallen Hallen Svaden Swanson Bloom – Cady Huffman
- Franz Liebkind – Brad Oscar
The loss of the original stars had a detrimental effect on the success of the production, prompting the return of Lane and Broderick for another run, from December 30, 2003 until April 4, 2004. Other "Max" performers on Broadway included Henry Goodman, Tony Danza, John Treacy Egan, Richard Kind, Brad Oscar, and Lewis J. Stadlen. "Leo" actors included Don Stephenson, Roger Bart, Hunter Foster, Steven Weber, and Alan Ruck.
Chicago tryout (2001)
The production opened at the St. James Theatre on April 19, 2001, and ran for 2,502 performances, closing on April 22, 2007. The director and choreographer was Susan Stroman. The show originally starred Nathan Lane as Max Bialystock (who reprised that role during the show's first few months on London's West End) and Matthew Broderick as Leo Bloom. Glen Kelly was the musical arranger and supervisor. The production won 12 Tony Awards, breaking the record held for 37 years by Hello, Dolly! which had won 10.
After the opening, The Producers broke the record for the largest single day box-office ticket sales in theatre history, taking in more than $3 million. It was announced that Lane and Broderick would return for a limited run in December 2003 to April 2004. The show's sales then broke its own record with over $3.5 million in single day ticket sales.
US Tour (2002–2003)
Beginning in September 2002, there were two touring companies that played 74 cities across the United States, grossing over $214 million. The 1st National touring company starred Lewis J. Stadlen and Don Stephenson. During the Los Angeles engagement in 2003, Stadlen and Stephenson were replaced by Jason Alexander and Martin Short for the duration of the show's run in that city, as well as in San Francisco.
Michael Kostroff, who had several supporting roles in the touring production, and also served as the understudy for the lead role of Max Bialystock, later published a memoir of the company's touring experience, Letters From Backstage.
West End (2004–2007)
The Producers opened in London's West End at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, on November 9, 2004 and closed on January 6, 2007, after 920 performances. The production featured Nathan Lane as Max, after Richard Dreyfuss was "let go" by the producers after finding that he was unable "to fulfil the rigours of the role", with four days to go before first previews. Lee Evans played Leo (Lane and Evans had worked together in the 1997 movie MouseHunt), with Leigh Zimmerman as Ulla, Nicolas Colicos as Franz Liebkind, Conleth Hill as Roger De Bris, and James Dreyfus as Carmen Ghia.
The show enjoyed excellent box office success as it had in New York. Despite the departure of Lane from the show, it continued to enjoy strong sales. Max Bialystock was then played by Brad Oscar,Fred Applegate, and Cory English. Leo Bloom was later played by John Gordon Sinclair and Reece Shearsmith.
UK tour (2007–2008)
A United Kingdom tour opened in Manchester for three months, commencing 19 February 2007. Peter Kay was cast in the role of Roger De Bris, with Cory English and John Gordon Sinclair reprising their roles of Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom, respectively. For the majority of the UK tour, running through until early 2008, Joe Pasquale took over the role of Leo Bloom and Russ Abbot played Roger DeBris.
Notable subsequent productions
A Los Angeles, California, production opened ran from May 2003 to January 2004 at the Pantages Theatre. Co-starring were Jason Alexander as Max Bialystock and Martin Short as Leo Bloom. The Las Vegas, Nevada production ran for a year in 2007 to 2008 at the Paris Hotel & Casino. It starred Brad Oscar as Bialystock, Larry Raben as Bloom and Leigh Zimmerman as Ulla, with David Hasselhoff receiving top billing as Roger De Bris. Once Hasselhoff left the production, top-billing went to Tony Danza, who stepped in as Bialystock. The production was a 90-minute version. In 2007, the first U.S. regional theater production played in Lincolnshire, Illinois at the Marriott Theatre from September to November 2007 and starred Ross Lehman as Bialystock and Guy Adkins as Bloom.
In 2009, the show played at the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and at the Diablo Light Opera Company in California, starring Ginny Wehrmeister as Ulla, Ryan Drummond as Leo, and Marcus Klinger as Max. This production received the 2009 Shellie Award for Best Production. Oscar and Roger Bart reprised their roles as Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom, respectively, in a production at Starlight Theatre in Kansas City, Missouri in August 2010.
A production at the Hollywood Bowl with Richard Kind, Roger Bart, and Gary Beach reprising their roles as Max, Carmen Ghia, and Roger DeBris from the original Broadway production. The cast also stars Jesse Tyler Ferguson as Leo, Dane Cook as Franz, and Rebecca Romijn as Ulla. The production ran July 27–29, 2012.
The Producers has been presented professionally in many cities around the world, including Toronto, Berlin, Breda, Melbourne, Brisbane, Cairns, Sydney, Christchurch, Tel Aviv, Seoul, Buenos Aires, Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Copenhagen, Milan, Budapest, Madrid, Halifax, Mexico City, Prague, Stockholm, Panama, Bratislava, Vienna, Helsinki, Athens, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Caracas, Portugal, Gothenborg, Oslo, Oradea, Varde, Moscow, Ghent, Manila, and Belgrade.
In 2005, the musical was adapted into a musical film, becoming a movie based on a musical based on a movie about a musical. It was directed by Stroman and starred most of the original Broadway cast, except for Brad Oscar—who was unable to reprise the role of Franz because he had signed on to play Max on Broadway and, instead, had a brief cameo as the cab driver—and Huffman. Their roles were played by Will Ferrell and Uma Thurman, respectively. The songs "King of Broadway", "In Old Bavaria", and "Where Did We Go Right?" were not in the theatrical cut of the movie; "King of Broadway" appears on the DVD as a deleted scene. Instead, two original songs, "You'll Find Your Happiness in Rio" and "There's Nothing Like a Show on Broadway" were added to the film. It opened on December 16, 2005, and received mixed reviews.
On the television show Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Producers was featured in almost every episode of Season 4. Larry David was offered the part of Max Bialystock by Mel Brooks; the part of Leo Bloom was occupied by Ben Stiller. When David and Stiller have a falling out, Stiller gets replaced by David Schwimmer. The story took an unusual turn when Larry David's attempt to play the part is marred by his missing his lines. However, he makes up some ad-lib comedy that keeps the audience laughing. In a "life imitating art" twist, it's revealed that Brooks cast David specifically so he would fail, end the show, and "free" Brooks of its success. Brooks is seen at the theater bar with real-life wife, Anne Bancroft, both laughing at how bad David is and they no longer have to travel to every city for a premiere. Of course, David ends up being a hit and Mel leads Anne out, both weakly muttering "no way out..." This was Bancroft's final filmed appearance before her death.
A similar work is mentioned in the Nazi-ruled alternate history novel In the Presence of Mine Enemies, in which a theatre owner books a terrible play about Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin, which becomes a smash hit.
Awards and nominations
At the 2001 Tony Awards, The Producers won 12 out of its 15 nominations, becoming one of the few musicals to win in every category for which it was nominated — it received two nominations for leading actor and three for featured actor. In 2009, the Broadway production of Billy Elliot the Musical received 15 nominations, tying with The Producers for the most nominations received by a show.
Original Broadway production
Original London production
|2005||Laurence Olivier Award||Best New Musical||Won|
|Best Actor in a Musical||Nathan Lane||Won|
|Best Actress in a Musical||Leigh Zimmerman||Nominated|
|Best Performance in a Supporting Role in a Musical||Conleth Hill||Won|
|Best Director||Susan Stroman||Nominated|
|Best Theatre Choreographer||Nominated|
|Best Costume Design||William Ivey Long||Nominated|
- Information from the CNN archives cnn.com
- Information from the PBS website pbs.org
- "Winter-Spring Broadway Season Schedule" playbill.com, February 11, 2001.
- Information from the PBS website pbs.org
- Information from the CNN archives cnn.com
- Jones, Kenneth. Broadway Record-Breaker The Producers Closes April 22" playbill.com, April 22, 2007
- Pogrebin, Robin."Ticket Sales for 'Producers' Set a Broadway Record" New York Times, April 21, 2001
- McKinley, Jesse. "For 'The Producers,' Another Box Office Bonanza" The New York Times, November 17, 2003, Section B, p. 1
- Playbill News: Broadway Record-Breaker "The Producers Closes April 22" playbill.com
- Jones, Kenneth."Alexander and Short Join Producers Tour in San Fran, April 21-26 Before L.A. Sitdown" playbill.com, March 25, 2003
- "'The Producers' at Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, 2004-2007" thisistheatre.com, accessed March 15, 2011
- Shenton, Mark."Review:'The Producers' The Stage, 10 November 2004
- Staff."Brad Oscar to Replace Nathan Lane in London's 'The Producers'" broadway.com, November 29, 2004
- Inverne, ames."Fred Applegate Named New Max for London "Producers'" Playbill.com, April 7, 2005
- Shenton, Mark."'The Producers', Review" The Stage, 31 March 2006
- Ansdell, Caroline.Cast: 'Producers' & 'Footloose' Tours, London 'Guys'" whatsonstage.com, 23 January 2007
- Paddock, Terri.Cast: Francolini in the Woods, Pasquale Produces" whatsonstage.com, 8 May 2007
- Playbill.com article, Feb. 9, 2008
- Information about the regional production in Lincolnshire, Illinois.
- Starlight Theater listing
- News from the Playbill.com website
- La Prensa website
- Venezuelan production
- Official site for the Russian production
- Töngi, G. "An exclusive look at Repertory Philippines' The Producers", Rappler Manila, December 13, 2013
- Kimmelman, Michael. "The Führer Returns to Berlin, This Time Saluted Only by Laughs", The New York Times, May 18, 2009
- Lefkowitz, David. "Record 12 Tony Awards for Producers; Proof, Cuckoo's Nest & 42nd St. Tops Too" playbill.com, June 4, 2001
- The Producers at the Internet Broadway Database
- The Producers at the Music Theatre International website
- Curtain Up reviews and information of various productions
- PBS Great Performances "Recording the Producers"
- Official site for the London production
- Roger Bart and Brad Oscar - Downstage Center interview at American Theatre Wing.org