By now, actor Brad Oscar's extraordinary journey from Missouri Santa to Broadway royalty is well known in theatrical circles. Late last year, two or three weeks before the smash Mel Brooks musical The Producers was to go into rehearsal, journeyman Oscar was donning a fat suit and red cap down in Branson, MO, playing St. Nick in the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Show. Brooks and company were still looking for a standby for star Nathan Lane. Oscar flew north to Chicago on his day off and landed the job.
That stroke of luck might have been enough for the happy-go-lucky Oscar. But during rehearsals, Ron Orbach, who was playing Nazi playwright Franz Liebkind, injured his knee. Oscar filled in during rehearsals and on opening night. Later on, when it became clear that Orbach would not be well enough to return, Oscar was made the permanent replacement. Fast forward a couple months and a thousand miles and the man who spent much of his recent time on stage getting killed in Jekyll and Hyde is delighting the happiest audiences on Broadway nightly and collecting a Tony nomination for featured actor in a musical.
"I'm having the time of my life — fantasy and reality," said Oscar. "I still wake up in the morning and ask, `Is this my life, to be a part of this project?'"
Oscar has two big numbers in the show, each decidedly Teutonic-flavored: "Der Guten Tag Hop-Clop" and "Haben Sie Gehort Das Deutsche Band?" (the latter is the number that wins him the part of Adolph Hitler in the show's atrocious musical-within-a-musical, "Springtime for Hitler"). Was it difficult mastering Brooks' ersatz German lyrics? "I had some help with the accent. And then you find yourself doing that "Hogan Heroes"/Carol Burnett kind of German thing, which I think is totally appropriate for this piece."
What's more, Oscar never lost his original gig; he is still understudy to Nathan Lane. "Odds are very good I will one day play Max Bialystock," he enthused. "I think we're all a little spent from this ride. It's really extraordinary." Oscar is contracted to the show for a year, but don't be surprised if he stays longer. "Right now, I don't want to do anything else."