Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick have been connected for some time to Mel Brooks' and Thomas Meehan's stage adaptation of Brooks' classic film comedy, "The Producers." Now, a source close to the production has confirmed the casting. A press spokesman for the show noted, however, that nothing was definite.
Lane will play Max Bialystock, an overbearing theatrical producer who was once the toast of Broadway but has now fallen on hard times. Broderick will be Leo Bloom, a shy accountant who, under Max's tutelage, finally blossoms -- albeit into a criminal.
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 goes 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. Theatrical Index is reporting that rehearsals for The Producers will start Dec. 4 for previews in late March 2001 and an opening date of April 19. The industry journal is also reporting that the musical -- to be produced by Rocco Landesman, Frankel, Viertel, Baruch & Routh Group, Miramax, Rick Steiner and Robert F X Sillerman -- will try out at Chicago's Cadillac Palace, Feb. 1-25, 2001. (Voice mail for that venue, reached by PBOL Sept. 11, listed no upcoming performances.)
As previously reported, Susan Stroman (Contact, The Music Man) will direct and choreograph The Producers. 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...
There is no confirmation for dates or a theatre for The Producers (sources have been pointing to the St. James, current home of Swing!). However, Brooks' spokesperson did say the earliest Broadway might see the musical would be January 2001.
Back in late March, director-choreographer Stroman 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."