It was one of the most surprising — perhaps shocking — moments of the theatre season past. Henry Goodman, the acclaimed British actor who was cast as Nathan Lane's replacement in The Producers and who had previously been lauded by the show's author, Mel Brooks, was abruptly fired from the musical just prior to his official press opening. Goodman, as all who are familiar with the production know, was ultimately replaced by Brad Oscar, who had performed the role on numerous occasion as Nathan Lane's understudy.
Goodman, who is about to open in a brief London run of Stephen Sondheim's Follies — he will play Buddy at the Royal Festival Hall beginning Aug. 3. — recently spoke with the Times of London about being let go from one of the biggest Broadway hits in years. "My first reaction was to laugh out loud," Goodman says. "Later, the thing that really hurt was the thought of my family and all those people who had had faith in me. I was honestly more sorry for them."
Goodman feels that his performance, though different from Nathan Lane's, was more than adequate. "I just wanted the freedom to deepen my character, make him darker, more like Zero Mostel [who played the part in the original 1968 film] . . . The fact is, 60,000 people saw me and no one asked for their money back. But they wanted a clone of Nathan and I wasn't prepared to give them that."
About the Tony-winning composer/co-book writer of the show, Mel Brooks, Goodman says, "With him it was, 'Henry, you're fabulous, I love you baby!' and then in the next breath it was, 'We pay you for this?' But that's just Mel for you . . . Listen, modern Broadway is totally driven by fear and money. I'm not letting panic and money-madness do me down. I don't feel angry. I'm not bitter. But I'm not letting the bastards off the hook either. What I really feel is dogged and totally determined. I'm even going back to Broadway to do a Molière play later this year."
Goodman, who would like to direct more — he considered applying for the directorship of the Royal Shakespeare Company — also wouldn't mind taking another chance on The Producers, when the show comes to London. "I feel as if I haven't had the baby," Goodman tells the London Times. "I'm pregnant still. And, sure, I want to do the London show when it comes here. My glove's still on the table." And what does he think of his chances? "I'd say roughly nil," he laughs.