The 1968 film, The Producers, was adapted as a critically acclaimed Broadway musical by Mel Brooks in 2001. Its first run starred Nathan Lane (who reprised that role during the show's first run on London's West End) and Matthew Broderick and won 12 Tony Awards, breaking the record held for 37 years by Hello Dolly! which had won 10. A later run starring Richard Kind and Steven Weber in Lane and Broderick's respective roles was not as successful, prompting the show's actual producers to briefly re-hire Lane and Broderick for another Broadway run. Although the musical has many scenes and jokes taken directly from the film, there are still many differences. Ulla has a much larger role, as does Springtime for Hitler director Roger DeBris. The character Lorenzo St. Dubois (LSD), a hippie who played Hitler in the 1968 movie, does not appear in the new version. Overall the musical is much more upbeat and ends more happily, with even the Nazi character Franz Liebkind being portrayed more sympathetically and getting a happy ending.
The humour of the show is accessible to a wide range of audiences, and draws on ridiculous accents, caricatures of homosexuals and Nazis, and many showbusiness in-jokes.
New York, 1959. It's the opening of a new Max Bialystock play called "Funny Boy", a musical version of Hamlet. Everyone ends up hating it and the show closes on opening night (Opening Night). Max, who was once called the King of Broadway, sings to a crowd of down-and-outs of his past achievements and that he will return to form (King of Broadway).
The next day Leo Bloom, a mousy PA from the accounting firm Whitehall and Marks, arrives in Max's office to look at his books. However, a couple of seconds later, one of Max's "investors" arrives, and he tells Leo to go wait in the bathroom until she leaves. His investor, a little old lady who constantly repeats the phrase, "Hold Me, Touch Me" starts playing a sex game with Max (The virgin milkmaid and the well-hung stableboy) which he later pauses and she gives him a check for his next play (which he hasn't yet produced and call "cash"). Leo comes out of the bathroom and reveals his lifelong dream to Max: he's always wanted to be a Broadway Producer. After a serious panic attack when Max touches his blue blanket, Leo calms down enough to give Max the news that he has found an accounting error in his books: Max raised $12,000 for "Funny Boy", but the play only cost $10,000. There's $2,000 unaccounted for. Max begs Leo to cook the books. "Look at me," he pleads. Once the King of Broadway, now reduced to romancing little old ladies to back him and wearing cardboard belts. Leo reluctantly agrees and returns to Max's books. After some calculations, he realizes that "under the right circumstances, a producer could actually make more money with a flop than he can with a hit." Max sits up, an idea forming in his unscrupulous head.
Leo explains. The IRS isn't interested in a show that flopped, so a producer could raise a million dollars, put on a $100,000 flop and keep the rest. Max proposes the ultimate scheme:
"Step 1: We find the worst play ever written. Step 2: We hire the worst director in town. Step 3: We raise two million dollars...One for me, one for you. There's a lot of little old ladies out there! Step 4: We hire the worst actors in New York and open on Broadway and before you can say Step 5, we close on Broadway, take our two million and go to Rio."
However, Leo refuses to help Max with his scheme and returns to work the books at Whitehall and Marks, even after much pleading (We Can Do It). When he gets back to work, he daydreams of becoming a Broadway producer and "driv[ing] those chorus girls insane." (I Wanna Be a Producer). He realizes that his job is terrible, quits his job, and returns to Max (I wanna be a Producer Reprise/We can Do it Reprise). Overnight, they look for the worst play ever written without much luck. Finally, Max finds the sure-fire flop: "Springtime for Hitler, A Gay Romp with Adolf and Eva at Berchtesgaden" written by Franz Liebkind. They head down to his home in Greenwich Village to get the rights to the play. They discover Franz on the roof of his tenament with his Birds: Hilde, Heidi, Hans, Heidrich and Adolf. After listening to the Nazi rave, Leo and Max are only able to get their contract signed after singing Adolf Hitler's favourite tune, Der Guten Tag Hop Clop and saying the Ziegfried Oath promising never to dishonour "the spirit and the memory of Adolf Elizabeth Hitler."
Leo and Max then go down to the townhouse of Roger De Bris, the worst director in New York and a flamboyant homosexual to boot. At first, Roger and his "common law-assistant" Carmen Ghia decline the offer to direct because of the serious subject matter. Shows should be more happy, bythe, bonney...gay, Roger avers. (Keep it Gay) Finally, after much persuading (and Tony-name dropping), Roger agrees to do it, but only if the ending is changed so the Germans end up winning World War II. A celebratory Conga ensues. The two finally arrive home where they meet a Swedish bombshell who wants to audition for their next play. Her name is Ulla Inga Hansen Yansen Yallen Tallen Sweden Swanson. That's her first name. Ulla for short. She auditions for them. (When You Got It, Flaunt It) Bialystock and Bloom are floored, to say the least. They hire her to be their secretary/receptionist. Max then goes off to raise two million dollars for "Springtime for Hitler" by calling on all the little old ladies in New York. (Along Came Bialy) Finally, after shtupping every little old lady in the greater Broadway area, Max has raised the Two million. (Finale)
Leo and Ulla are left alone for a little while in Max's redecorated office (redecorated by Ulla during the intermission; See Photo right) and they start to fall in love. (That Face) Leo, who has always decided to stay away from any relationship, breaks his own rule and starts to go out with Ulla.
The auditions for finding a terrible Hitler go unsuccessfully. One terrible actor after another is shooed away by Roger. After Franz is outraged by one auditioner's rendition of Haben Sie Gehort Das Deutsche Band?, he performs his own jazzy version and he is given the part. Opening night for "Springtime for Hitler" arrives (It's Bad Luck to Say Good Luck on Opening Night) and everyone is ready, until Franz falls down the stairs and ironically breaks his leg. Roger is the only one who knows the part of Hitler and he rushes to dressing room to get ready.
The Curtain rises, and Max and Leo watch their failure unfold (Springtime for Hitler). Unfortunately, Roger's performance is so campy and so Garland-esque, the audience mistake the show for a comedy and it becomes the talk of the town.
Back at the office, Max and Leo are near-suicidal. (Where Did We Go Right?) Roger and Carmen come to congratulate the Producers of the new smash, only to find them fighting over the accounting books. Just then, Franz bursts in, outraged by Roger's potrayal of his beloved Fuhrer and wielding a pistol. The police hear the commotion and arrive, taking away Franz, Max and the accounting books. However, Leo hides and Ulla finds him and convinces him to take the two million dollars and run off to Rio as Max had planned (That Face (reprise)).
In prison, Max receives a postcard from Leo and feels (Betrayed) and, in his big eleven o'clock number recounts the whole play (including intermission). At his trial Max pleads guilty, but then Leo and Ulla arrive and tell the judge that Max is a good man who would never hurt anyone. ( 'Til Him) The judge is touched by this and decides not to separate the two...so he sends the two to spend time in Sing Sing prison for 5 years, along with Franz. In prison, they write a new musical entitled "Prisoners of Love" which goes to Broadway ( Prisoners of Love ) (Starring the stars of Springtime, Roger and Ulla) when they are pardoned by the Governor. Leo and Max continue to produce Broadway musicals and, at the end, the two fully-fledged kings of Broadway walk off into the sunset.(Leo & Max) After the curtain call, there is one last song with the cast telling the audience to leave. (Goodbye)
List of Songs
The Producers was nominated for the following Tony Awards in 2001:
The London Production
The London production of the hit Broadway show got off to a complicated start with the late withdrawal of Richard Dreyfuss briefly before its opening on the 9th November 2004. However, these problems were quickly forgotten after the announcement that Nathan Lane, the creator of the role in the New York production, would be stepping in for a limited run with a salary of what is thought to be signficantly higher than £30,000 per week.
With Lane cast in the role once again, alongside the equally strong team of Lee Evans as Leo Bloom, Leigh Zimmerman as Ulla, Conleth Hill as Roger De Bris and James Dreyfus as Carmen Ghia with Nicolas Colicos as Franz Liebkind, the show got off to a tremendous start and had similar box office success as that seen in New York.
Despite the departure of Lane from the show, audience numbers did not dwindle, with it remaining strong to date. The show recently moved into the black, financially, and has survived through numerous cast changes.
On 23 June 2006, it was announced that the show would close on 6 January 2007, to make way for the European premiere of The Lord Of The Rings musical.
Launches in other cities
The musical was separately cast and launched in other cities:
In 2005, the musical was adapted into a musical film, becoming a movie based on a musical based on a movie about a musical. It was directed by Susan Stroman and starred most of the original Broadway cast, except for Brad Oscar and Cady Huffman. Their roles were instead played by Will Ferrell and Uma Thurman, respectively. The songs "King of Broadway", "In Old Bavaria" and "Where Did We Go Right?" were not in the theatrical cut of the movie, although "King of Broadway" and "In Old Bavaria" appeared on the DVD as deleted scenes. To compensate, two original songs, "You'll Find Your Happiness In Rio" and "There's Nothing Like A Show On Broadway" were added to the film. It opened on December 16, 2005 in select cities, and on December 25 everywhere. The film received mixed reviews from critics. Most negative reviews cited the fact that the performances were tuned for the theatre rather than film ('selling it to the highest balcony').
After the success of the show, Mel Brooks reportedly is considering turning his movie Young Frankenstein into a similar musical. No deadline has been set for the work's completion, but after it is finished Brooks will begin fundraising and production.
In a Premiere Magazine interview, Broderick and Lane announced that the success of The Producers has inspired them to re-unite on stage as Felix Ungar and Oscar Madison, respectively, in The Odd Couple.