Although Swing! has yet to announce a closing date (though rumors have it lasting until mid-January 2001), a production spokesperson at the Barlow-Hartman office has confirmed that The Producers will open April 19 at the St. James Theatre. Directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman, the musical adaptation of Mel Brooks' classic film comedy is to start rehearsals Dec. 4 and begin previews in late March 2001. As reported by Theatrical Index, the show will have its pre-Broadway tryout at Chicago's Cadillac Palace, Feb. 1-25, 2001.
Nathan Lane will play Max Bialystock, an overbearing theatrical producer who was once the toast of Broadway but has now fallen on hard times. Matthew Broderick will be Leo Bloom, a shy accountant who, under Max's tutelage, finally blossoms -- albeit into a criminal. Brooks and Thomas Meehan (Annie) are collaborating on the tuner.
Several other names have been mentioned as likely for the cast. Among them are: Cady Huffman, best known for playing Ziegfeld's Favorite in The Will Rogers Follies, as the leads' sexpot secretary, Ulla; Gary Beach (Beauty and the Beast's candelabra) as effete director Roger DeBries; and Ron Orbach (Laughter on the 23rd Floor) as unregenerate Nazi playwright, Franz Liebkin.
Word on the street has it that Tony winner Roger Bart (You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown) is close to signing for Carmen Ghia, Roger's even more-effeminate manservant, but that could not be confirmed at press time. (Bart went into Off-Broadway's Fully Committed Sept. 12.)
Casting for ensemble roles is still being finalized. Apparently, the role of the florid LSD, the hippie rock singer drafted into playing Adolf Hitler has been eliminated, though elements of LSD show up in a new and different character. No word yet on whether LSD's environmental anthem, "Love Power," is still in the show. The musical is being produced by Rocco Landesman, Frankel, Viertel, Baruch & Routh Group, Miramax, Rick Steiner and Robert F X Sillerman. Equity auditions were held in mid-August, though the Lane casting was in the works long before that. (In a March 2 appearance on "The Late Show With David Letterman," Brooks, a guest on the show, pulled a contract for the musical out of his pants and told Lane, who was Letterman’s guest host, to sign it. Brooks told the crowd he wanted Lane to star in the planned stage musical, presumably in the Max Bialystock role originated by Zero Mostel. Lane, currently starring in the Roundabout's The Man Who Came to Dinner, agreed.) Broderick's name had been rumored for months, although early reports had Martin Short as Brooks' first choice for the nebbishy Bloom, with Evan Pappas also considered during the early reading stages.
Theatregoers can be forgiven for keeping an extra-close eye on every aspect of The Producers. Not only is Brooks' 1968 film on many lists as the funniest film ever made, the plot-line is about Broadway itself. Brooks' Oscar-winning screenplay tells of a larger-than-life but down-on-his-luck Broadway producer who enlists a meek tax accountant, Leo Bloom, to help him get back on top. The scheme is not to mount a hit play, but to raise a lot of money, produce a great stinking flop, and then disappear before paying back the investors. What better choice for a disaster than "Springtime For Hitler," a dramatic love-letter to Der Furher penned by a German lunatic living in a Brooklyn tenement? After securing the property, Max and Leo add a flamboyant director and a stoned hippie leading man, all but ensuring that "Springtime For Hitler" will be excruciatingly bad. Only it turns out, it's so bad, it's funny...
Back in late March, director-choreographer Stroman (Contact, The Music Man) told Playbill On-Line, "We're actually going to do a reading of [Mel's] musical," "He's written the musical and lyrics and the book. Every single page is funny."