Mel Brooks and Company Visit London for Producers Launch

News   Mel Brooks and Company Visit London for Producers Launch The creative team behind The Producers flew into London Feb. 2 to discuss the musical's upcoming London run.

Enthusing about bringing the Broadway hit to the West End were Mel Brooks, Thomas Meehan and Susan Stroman. While the trio held court at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane (where the musical will open Nov. 9), the smaller Fortune Theatre across the road was decked in balloons and posters for the show in preparation for a ticket agents’ bash later in the day.

Brooks was in good humor, answering a question about whether he was worried about the show breaking taboos with the quip, "Don’t mention Taboo, it just closed!" However, he was confident that his musical would do better in London than the one Boy George sent from Leicester Square to New York. Noting that he originally wanted the story to be a stage show but that American producer Kermit Bloomgarten told him there were too many scenes, Brooks is convinced that London audiences will “be very happy. A good comedy blows the dust off your soul,” he said. “Londoners have had a lot of good musicals, but no great comedy. Les Miserables was more dramatic. The Lion King is a feast for the eyes. . . "

Brooks rhapsodized about his two (absent) leads, Lee Evans and Richard Dreyfuss. Brooks hailed Evans — currently rehearsing for his London turn in Beckett’s Endgame — as “a reincarnation of Gene Wilder. I worried about how to find a Leo Bloom, a little caterpillar who could bloom. Then I saw the movie 'Funny Bones,' and there he was! He sings, he dances, he’s amazingly physically gorgeous." And the musical’s first star, Nathan Lane, who appeared with Evans in the film 'Mousetrap,' also had a word in Brooks’s ear — "Nathan said, 'That boy is a bit of a genius.'"

Dreyfuss, he said, has something of the same manic energy of Zero Mostel, who played Max in the original movie. "Manic energy is the key," said Brooks. "Richard Dreyfuss is a brilliant artist and a nervous wreck, and all of his nervousness is in this con-man."

Stroman answered questions about whether The Producers might be produced in Germany with caution. "It’s possible," she said, "but everyone is worried about offending people. So I don’t know." Brooks was more forthcoming, revealing that a delegation of 25 German theatregoers would be brought to London to see the show so that their reaction to the Nazi references could be gauged. "They’re being assembled in Berlin," he commented, mischievously. "To get to the theatre, they’ll probably take the lowlands. They usually take that route. We’d better warn the Dutch." Still, he wasn’t too worried — "It’s only a matter of being shot by a sniper." On future plans, Brooks and Meehan confirmed that they were working on a stage musical version of another Brooks film, "Young Frankenstein." Beyond that, said Brooks, "It’s all vapors." But, he admitted to Playbill On-Line, he’d like to create an original show in the Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers genre. And not as a parody. "I love that stuff," he mused.

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