The big news is that Oscar-winner Richard Dreyfuss will make his West End return (after a British stage debut in Neil Simon’s The Prisoner Of Second Avenue opposite Marsha Mason in 1999) in November 2004. He’s down to play Max Bialystock, the nutty, down-on-his-luck impresario who seizes on the idea to create a sure-fire flop show, thereby avoiding any meddlesome investigations into its (over-)investment.
His sidekick, the retiring Leo Bloom, will be played by British comedian Lee Evans. Evans has had plenty of success in acting, memorably in the movie “There’s Something About Mary”, and he follows New York’s Matthew Broderick in the part.
The Producers opened on Broadway in March 2001, scooping a record 12 Tony Awards including Best Musical. Other awards include 11 Drama Desks and eight Outer Critics’ Circle Awards. Mel Brooks penned the book (with Thomas Meehan), music and lyrics. Choreography is by Susan Stroman, with scenic design by Robin Wagner, costume design by William Ivey Long, lighting by Peter Kaczorowski, sound by Steve C.Kennedy and orchestration by Doug Besterman. The entire original creative team will return to the production for London, where it will open at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane on Tuesday Nov 9, 2004.
Speaking over the phone, lead London producer David Ian from Clear Channel Entertainment told Playbill Online the reasoning behind Dreyfuss’s casting: “Richard’s comedic skills are very close to Mel Brooks’s heart. He met with Mel and Susan Stroman and went through a couple of scenes and they thought he was terrific. Last weekend he met with Lee Evans and they bonded very well. It’s an interesting balance – Lee originated in stand-up comedy and branched into acting, whereas Dreyfuss is a dyed-in-the-wool, legit-trained actor who has perhaps specialized in comedic roles. So we’re very excited.” Auditions for the other roles will commence in London at the end of January, with Brooks and Stroman in attendance. Although Ian jokes that, “a 15-year run will do me,” in fact he says that the show needs to run for eight or nine months at full capacity (or a year at around 80 per cent) to make its money back.
“It’s a £5 million show, and with a large cast including two big stars it’s not inexpensive to run. However, Drury Lane is a big theatre with 2,300 seats, so there’s a potentially big gross to recoup the money pretty quickly.”
Producers of The Producers alongside Ian are Rocco Landesman, 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.