The Producers

The Producers, the new Mel Brooks Musical
a kate west review
at the Pantages Theatre, 6233 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles
Mel Brooks (Book, Composer, Lyricist, Producer), Thomas Meehan (Book),
Susan Stroman (Director, Choreographer)
Opens May 2, 2003
contact Los Angeles (213) 628-2772, Ticket Master (213) 365-3500

“The Producers,” now playing at the Pantages, is a Tony-award-winning, fun romp in the tradition of old-fashioned musical theater. As in the beloved movie version (also Mel Brooks), two desperate producers, Jason Alexander (of “Seinfeld” fame) as Max Bialystock and Martin Short (from “Saturday Night Live”) as Leo Bloom, connive old lady theater patrons into investing in a sure-fire bomb. The plan is to collect two million dollars, close the show in one day, keep the money and evade the IRS. What could go wrong? Plenty, it seems, as is fabulously depicted in this Broadway version of an old con.

Broadway veteran Jason Alexander is wonderfully adept as the crass, smooth-talking Max, who convinces his accountant Leo (the very silly Martin Short) to be more creative with the financial books and to help him mount a flop. They find a terrible playwright, an old German nazi-afficiando Franz Liebkind, played by the marvelously talented Fred Applegate and a truly awful director, Roger De Bris, (the outrageous Gary Beach) and together with some terrible music and actors they mount “Springtime for Hitler,” a musical showing Adolf Hitler’s “fun side,” guaranteed to offend anyone and everyone. However, everything soon goes horribly wrong or in this case right (“Where Did We Go Right?”), beginning with the musical becoming a smash hit and ending with the two hapless producers facing a long jail sentence and no way out. Along the way, they have many run-ins with over-the-top stereotypical characters such as neo-nazis, flamboyant theater people (“Der Guten Tag Hop-Clop,” “Keep It Gay”) and even little old ladies who tap-dance with walkers in an impressively mobile number.

There are a lot of big, beautiful Broadway spectacular numbers (“I Wanna Be A Producer,” “Springtime for Hitler”); there are a few inside jokes (Jason Alexander addresses the audience at one point, comparing himself to Nathan Lane in the New York production) and plenty of mindless dialogue to keep the audience laughing and enjoying themselves. Director/Choreographer Susan Stroman keeps the production fast-paced and trimmed and the costumes (William Ivey Long) and set design (Robin Wagner) are delicious. A slight, desperate, frantic air prevails throughout the production, which seems to be typical of Mel Brooks, however for the most part it’s harmless fun and a great idea for an adaptation. Those familiar with the movie version should especially relish it. For the rest of the world, the best way to enjoy this production is to fully embrace the one-dimensional characters and not look for the deeper meaning of life. Plus, it’s running for several months at the gorgeous Pantages Theater which always adds to the magic of a production.

The Producers (Movie-Only Edition)

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