By Kenneth Jones
22 Apr 2007
The record 12-time Tony Award-winning 2001 smashzilla closes three days after its sixth anniversary (which was April 19), following 33 preview performances and 2,502 regular performances at Broadway's St. James Theatre.
Director-choreographer Susan Stroman is expected to be on hand at the Sunday curtain call.
Mel Brooks' new musical, Young Frankenstein, with a score by Mel Brooks, a book by Brooks and Thomas Meehan and direction and choreography by Susan Stroman — the team that turned The Producers into gold — will likely play the coveted St. James Theatre next. A further announcement about the production (including dates, casting and more) is imminent.
"The last six years working on this show have been pure joy for me," Brooks said in a statement. "There is not a single person who has ever been involved with this production to whom I am not gratefully indebted to for their talent, devotion and support during the run of The Producers. All of my Broadway experiences to date have been everything I could have hoped they would be and more."
Stroman, who directed and choreographed the show, and solidified her career with it, stated, "This show is first and foremost a tribute to Broadway. I give my most heartfelt thank you to every performer, writer, designer, crew member, musician, producer and the countless others who have made this show part of theatre history. I can truly say that I have had the privilege of working with the best of Broadway. The sound of laughter is the greatest sound on earth, and I have been lucky enough to experience that sound every day for the last six years. But I consider myself luckiest for having had the chance to collaborate with the brilliant and spontaneous mind of Mel Brooks."
The Producers is based on Brooks' Academy Award-winning 1968 film of the same name, and tells the story of down-on-his-luck theatrical producer, Max Bialystock, and Leo Bloom, a mousy accountant. Together they hatch the ultimate scam: raise more money than you need for a sure-fire Broadway flop and pocket the difference. Their sure-fire flop is called Springtime for Hitler, and becomes an unexpected smash.
The musical arrived at a time when big, delicious old-fashioned musicals — featuring bawdy jokes, burlesque-worthy drag turns and bosomy and leggy dames — seemed in danger of disappearing. A flurry of broad-strokes musical comedies (Hairspray, The Drowsy Chaperone, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, The Wedding Singer, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Spamalot) would follow The Producers, but did not match the sensation it created. Pop-culture watchers opined that The Producers started a trend, shifting Broadway away from serious-minded bombastic pop operas and British spectacles of the 1980s and '90s.
(Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States, there seemed more than ever to be an audience for escapist fare that offered a laugh and catchy melody.)
Brooks surprised audiences and industry folk not so much with the comic intensity of the show's libretto (inspired by his Academy Award-winning screenplay) — his gift for telling a funny story was well-known – but for the craft of his songs. Penning music and lyrics (and winning the Best Score Tony Award in 2001), he created a score that recalled sumptuous, tuneful Jule Styne musicals of the 1950s and '60s. (Brooks' partner in the Producers music department was Glen Kelly, the music supervisor and arranger who helped shape the author's songs into theatrical gold.)
The Producers opened on April 19, 2001, to historic, unanimous rave reviews, and earned the most Tony Awards in theatre history (with 12 wins including Best Musical).
The original company starred Nathan Lane as Max Bialystock, Matthew Broderick as Leo Bloom, Gary Beach as Roger de Bris, Cady Huffman as Ulla, Roger Bart as Carmen Ghia and Brad Oscar as Franz Liebkind.
The day after its opening, The Producers broke the record for the largest single day box-office gross in theatre history, taking in more than $3 million, and then went on to break its own record in 2003 (when Broderick and Lane's return to the show went on sale) with over $3.5 million in single day ticket sales.
Two national touring companies played 74 cities throughout the United States, beginning in September 2002, and grossed over $214 million.
A 2005 film version of the musical was released by Sony Pictures during the run of the show. Stroman made her feature-film directing debut. It starred Lane, Broderick, Bart and Beach, with Uma Thurman as Ulla and Will Ferrell as Franz. The picture was nominated for four Golden Globe Awards including Best Picture (Musical or Comedy). A new Brooks song written for the picture was nominated for a Grammy Award.
A fresh 90-minute stage version of the show recently opened at Paris Las Vegas. Brad Oscar plays Max there and David Hasselhoff is Roger.
To date, The Producers has played in 12 countries around the world. Currently, there are productions running in Las Vegas, Budapest, Copenhagen, Italy, Korea, Spain, Mexico, Israel and Prague.
The Toronto production opened in December 2003 at The Canon Theatre. The London production opened in November 2004 at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane. The Australian production opened at Melbourne's Princess Theatre in April 2004, and went on to play at Brisbane's Lyric Theatre and Sydney's Lyric Theatre.
In addition to having a Tony-winning book, score, direction and choreography, the show has Tony Award winning set design by Robin Wagner, Tony Award winning costume design by William Ivey Long and Tony Award winning lighting design by Peter Kaczorowski.
Sound design is by Steve C. Kennedy, wig and hair design are by Paul Huntley, make-up design is by Melissa Silver, musical supervision and dance and incidental music arrangements are by the aforementioned Glen Kelly, musical direction and vocal arrangements are by Patrick S. Brady and orchestrations are by Doug Besterman.
A cast album preserves the score. A film soundtrack is also in stores.
The Producers is produced by Rocco Landesman, Live Nation, The Frankel · Baruch · Viertel · Routh Group, Bob and Harvey Weinstein, Rick Steiner, Robert F.X. Sillerman and Mel Brooks, in association with James D. Stern and Douglas Meyer and by special arrangement with StudioCanal.
Here's a reminder of the Tony Award wins for The Producers:
The show was also Tony nominated for Best Actor (Musical) –Matthew Broderick; Best Actor in a Featured Role (Musical) –Roger Bart; Best Actor in a Featured Role (Musical) – Brad Oscar.
The cast album won the Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album.