Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan, The Producers
Meehan and Brooks have both written books before—Meehan won a Tony Award in 1977 for Annie, while Brooks started off his career penning sketches for the revue New Faces of 1952 and the books to Shinbone Alley and All-American. But The Producers was a unique experience; the wildly popular film version is a film comedy legend and already won an Oscar for Best Screenplay. Brooks—whose other films include "Blazing Saddles," "History of the World Part One" and "Young Frankenstein"—and Meehan could have thrown the film on stage with little effort. Instead, The Producers brings together the old and new and replaces outdated material (the character LSD) with logical and amusing plot twists, turning a 90-minute film romp into a two hour and 45 minute musical comedy romp.
John Caird, Jane Eyre
Director Caird brought one of literature's best loved romantic novels to the stage, retaining the spirit of the novel (including having Jane address the "gentle audience" as the novel's heroine addresses her gentle readers) while incorporating Broadway first-timer Paul Gordon's score. Caird is currently represented on Broadway with Les Miserables, which won him a Best Director Tony with Trevor Nunn (he also won Best Director with Nunn on The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby and was nominated for Pam Gem's Stanley). Caird also provided some lyrics for Jane Eyre, nominated for Best Score, and co-directed the musical with Scott Schwartz.
Linda Kline and Lonny Price, A Class Act
Kline and Price had an interesting task ahead of them with A Class Act—how to present the essence of songwriter Edward Kleban's life without baring all the real-life details and bogging down the story? The two created composite characters (the women are combinations of several women from Kleban's life, including Kline herself, a former lover) and then took as many of Kleban's trunk songs as they could fit into the piece. Since none of the songs were written specifically for A Class Act, that they smoothly move the plot along while telling the life story of Kleban is testament to Kline's and Price's work. Kline is a journalist and librettist (My Heart Is in the East, Cut the Ribbons), while Price is an actor-director and stars as Kleban in the musical.
Terrence McNally, The Full Monty
Four-time Tony winner McNally is up again for Best Book honors, this time for transforming the hit British film comedy "The Full Monty" into the hit American musical comedy. He successfully transferred the action from Sheffield, England, to Buffalo, New York, and created several new characters, including a gorgeous gay stripper and the main character's brassy and ballsy rehearsal pianist, played by Tony Award nominee Kathleen Freeman. McNally has already won two Tony Awards for his books to Kiss of the Spider Woman and Ragtime. Other Tony winning plays are Love! Valour! Compassion! and Master Class. A lifelong lover of opera, McNally has written the libretto to several operas, including an adaption of the film Dead Men Walking.
Analysis: There's not much of a question here. The Producers is one of the best loved theatrical movies of all time. The book of the musical not only retains the best elements and classic lines from the film, but also creates new catch-phrases and equally funny new jokes, all fitted comfortably and easily to the sixteen added songs. Brooks and Meehan will take home Tony, especially if the prize for Best Score goes to The Full Monty's David Yazbek. —By Christine Ehren