The Producers

Last weekend, Grace and I did what we couldn’t quite do in New York: catch The Producers, the Broadway musical. Albeit at Playhouse Square in Cleveland, albeit the travelling company without Broderick and Lane. But what can you do?

I haven’t seen the original movie in a very long time. I remember it starting off a little slowing, and then steadily growing on you until the suddenly rolling-on-the-floor-laughing final act, which was arguably one of the funniest things ever to be put on screen. The Broadway musical is different: it’s a bit more modern with a few contemporary cultural references, it’s a bit more risque with the Little Old Ladies and De Bris, it’s a little more conventional with redemption and self-actualization by the end of it all. It’s good, a very fine Broadway hit, but it wasn’t that surprising.

In particular, I think the shock of the Springtime for Hitler musical-within-the-movie apocalypse is diluted by making it a musical-within-the-musical in this production. “Springtime for Hitler and Germany, Deutschland is happy and gay!” no longer constitutes a surprising, hilarious break from everything that had been going on before, and is now merely another showtune in a string of showtunes. This is a bit of a letdown, from my memories of watching the original movie the first time.

On the plus side, it really is a fine Broadway show. It seemed to clarify and carry the story better than the movie, especially at the beginning (which I remember dragging a bit). Funny how rendering plot points and motivations into song and dance does that. The happy ending where everyone learns something and everyone gets what they want at the end was a bit cliched, but it is Broadway after all. I just don’t remember that happening in the movie, but my faulty memory may be to blame. The singing and dancing seemed fine in the touring company, but I’m no judge of these things. I don’t know how Broderick and Lane did it. This production’s Leo seemed overly nervous, especially at the beginning, but that just may be the way it is. The references to Mel Brook’s past were also appreciated (“Death of a Salesman, On Ice!”).

Oh, I haven’t really followed Curb Your Enthusiasm, but apparently last season was perhaps a big meta-riff, playing on Jason Alexander playing Bialystock in the L.A. “Producers”, Jason being most famous as George on Seinfeld, upon whom Larry David is based on. Just the idea of it got me to queue up the to-be-released DVD set on Netflix.

Here’s a question: can The Producers be staged in Germany?

Update: Of course, I somehow chose the 40th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz for this post. This Mel Brooks movie was written probably in the mid- to late-1960s. At what time does it become appropriate to ridicule the devil after catastrophe?

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