There's Nothing Like a Show on Broadway
Oh, how I wanted to see The Producers on Broadway! I never made it to New York, but thanks to the magic of movies, my family and I enjoyed the highly entertaining film version on Christmas Day. Happily, cameras didn’t cut away during any musical routines, so we were treated to each terrific number from beginning to end.
Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick are hilarious together as their odd-couple characters plan to put on the worst play in the world. Certain that Springtime for Hitler will flop, they scheme to keep all the money invested. Portraying Max Bialystock, a manipulative theater impresario, Lane’s energy simply engulfs the screen. And Broderick seems perfectly cast in the role of shy, nervous accountant Leo Bloom. When he clutches Leo’s blue “blankie” during periods of overwhelming anxiety or bursts into hysterics, Broderick comes across just as convincing as the great Gene Wilder in the original non-musical movie. And his performance in the “I Wanna Be a Producer” number emerges as one of the film’s highlights.
Although Lane and Broderick shine here, Will Ferrell almost steals the show as a maniacal Nazi playwright named Franz Liebkind. Upset over one audition for the part of Hitler, Liebkind jumps on stage and belts out the song himself. As they say on “American Idol,” Ferrell makes this number his own. It’s the funniest song and dance routine I’ve seen since Donald O’Connor’s “Make ‘Em Laugh” classic in Singin’ in the Rain.
One of the biggest surprises in The Producers involves Uma Thurman. I thought this would be a case of serious miscasting, but, fortunately, she displays considerable singing (or lypsynching?) and dancing talent in the role of Ulla, a buxom Swedish blonde who offers her services to the producers. I found myself totally charmed by Thurman’s spirited rendition of “If You’ve Got It Flaunt It.”
Outrageous musical numbers evoke most of the laughs in this movie funfest. Eat your heart out, Rockettes, because here comes a little old ladies’ chorus line (“Along Came Bialy”) to rival your success. Watch out, real-life producers, for an actor named Gary Beach (“Heil Myself”). Never, and I mean never, hire him if you want your play to flop! And stop spinning in your grave, Florenz Ziegfeld. Those “Springtime for Hitler and Germany” showgirls are all in good fun. Finally, congratulations to director Susan Stroman, for making this Broadway gem into a film that old-time movie musical fans like me can cheer about.
If you missed the live theatrical production, be sure to see this crazy and loveable movie treatment. Also, you absolutely must sit through all the end credits. Why? To hear “There’s Nothing Like a Show on Broadway” as well as a bit of advice from Mel Brooks, the creative genius behind The Producers in all its forms.
(Released by Universal Pictures and rated “PG-13” for sexual humor and references.)