Springtime for Broadway

'The Producers,' '42nd Street,' & 'Stones in His Pockets'

Like Genghis Khan across the Asian steppes, like the tulip in seventeenth-century Holland, like J.K. Rowling on the shelves of juvenilia, Mel Brooks’s The Producers has rampaged onto Broadway, strewing headlines in its wake. With high-profile stars Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick cast in the leads, the show (which is based on Brooks’s 1968 movie and features a book by Brooks and Thomas Meehan) had nearly overwhelmed theatrical buzz circuits long before it opened in April. Then, the day after New York reviewers had chimed in on the hilarity of the script and songs (music and lyrics by Brooks); the cast’s impeccable acting; and the pitch-perfect touches by director Susan Stroman, the production broke box-office records, generating more than $3 million in ticket sales in one day. It then went on to win an unprecedented twelve Tony Awards, including best musical.

Everything has gone right, in short, for the producers of The Producers, a musical about producers who conspire to make everything go wrong. In this wicked spoof, the less-than-scrupulous impresario Max Bialystock (Lane) hooks up with a shy accountant (Broderick) in an ingenious scheme: create the worst show ever, raise funds like mad for it, and pocket the surplus money when the play flops-a cinch, the duo thinks once they’ve cooked up Springtime for Hitler, a musical about Der Führer himself.

Stroman’s production is decked from start to finish...

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About the Author

Celia Wren is Commonweal’s media and stage critic.