The film-of-the-musical-of-the-film, The Producers unites the hit Broadway pairing of Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, drafts in Uma Thurman, and somewhere along the way loses half the fun that made the original movie and the Broadway show such a success, mainly through the lazy writing and lack of real chemistry between the leads.
While there's undoubtedly some kitsch fun to be had watching this, and Lane and Broderick are clearly have a great time in their roles, there are a couple of key problems with The Producers. Firstly, and most crucially, is the staid direction. This very much feels like a camera was placed in front of a stage, and it hurts the film a lot. Secondly, the wonderful energy of the Broadway musical is lost through lack of energy being shown on the camera. I'm a big fan of the stage version and this doesn't pair up.
And yet there are winning moments, some good laughs, and a gentle couple of hours of entertainment. Yet the key attraction is clearly a chance for the majority who never got to see Lane and Broderick treading the boards in their acclaimed performances before, and for many, that rightly justifies the asking price. You just can't help wishing the film around them was a little better, though. Even the songs, which usually save a film like this didn't help. Maybe I was expecting too much, or not enough, I don't know.
It's one DVD that's staying in my collection until the next car boot sale.
Just so there is no confusion from the start this is a review of the theatre production of Mel Brooks, The Producers, currently showing at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, Covent Garden and not the film that is probably showing at a cinema near you.
It had been a few years since I had been to see a West End musical as I had become a bit jaded over what was on offer however last summer I took the kids to see their first musical, We Will Rock You and I enjoyed it so much I decided to treat my mother to tickets to The Producers for her Christmas present.
Max Bialystock is a Broadway Producer who is down on his luck, former top dog nowadays opening night for one of his musicals often coincides with closing night as the critics slam dunk his work often leaving at the end of the first act. He has been reduced to seducing old women to generate the funding for his musicals and living in his office in a rented tux that is two weeks overdue.
When accountant Leo Bloom turns up one day to do his books Leo finds that some money is missing and stumbles onto the fact that it is possible to make more money from a Broadway flop than it is from a successful show. Leo has always wanted to be a producer and sees it as a way to escape his humdrum life as an accountant and soon he is seduced by the conman Max into helping him run the scam.
The two set out to find the worst musical possible and they succeed when they discover a script by Franz Liebking entitled Springtime for Hitler. Liebking is a certified head case and Hitler fanatic and is keen to sign up with Max and Leo so that his story can be told. Next Max begins looking for the worst director in New York and this he finds in the wonderfully camp Roger De Bris who is only out camped by his assistant Carmen Ghia.
The only familiar face in the cast for me was John Gordon Sinclair who played the part of Leo Bloom. Sinclair is probably best known for his performance in Gregorys Girl alongside Clair Grogan and his TV works includes Nelsons Column. At first I did not particularly warm to his performance, Sinclair took over the role from rubber faced comedian Lee Evans and at times it felt like I was watching a second rate version of Evans however as the performance wore on Sinclair came to own the role more and more and by the end of it I was not thinking about how Evans would have looked in the role. Whilst I was not totally convinced by his performance he proved an adequate stooge to the scheming and great one liners delivered by Max.
Max was played by Fred Applegate who has also starred in the role on Broadway and also appears in the film version that is currently doing the rounds but as a different character. His is a very entertaining performance and he spends the vast majority of the musical on stage. His opening number The King of Broadway is very funny and sets the high standards for the rest of the show mixing some killer comedy lines with a great vocal performance.
For me the best singing performance came from Nicolas Colicos who played the role of Franz Liebkind, he has a powerful voice and delivered his lines with great timing, it cannot be easy having to sing along with mechanical Nazi pigeons but he certainly managed it well and he brightened up the stage with his presence.
Don Gallagher and Stephen Matthews played the roles of Roger and Carmen respectively and they turned in funny performances that would have been just at home in a pantomime. Leigh Zimmerman provided the love interest for Leo (and lust interest for Max) playing the role of Swedish starlet Ulla with one of the most stereotypical accents you could hope to hear.
This is probably the funniest west end musical I have ever seen. Im not really a big fan of Brookss films finding them a bit hit and miss with the humor but with this musical he certainly scored a hit. I laughed so much in the first half of the musical that my mother complained about the row of seats rocking and whilst the second half was not quite as funny there were still plenty of laughs.
The humor was provided with a mixture of visual gags (the pigeons will long live in my memory) and some great one liners either delivered in song or during normal dialogue. I liked the fact that there was a good mixture of straight acting without the feeling that each part was just a pretense to set up the next song.
The choreography was very polished with some great dance scenes that were very clever that included the tap dancing Zimmer frames, there was always something happening across the stage to keep the audience attention. The stage scenery was very innovative and certainly complimented the performance, in one of the later scenes there is a very clever use of mirrors to help with the visual effect of what is happening on the stage.
I must admit that a few days after the performance I struggled to remember any of the songs and certainly none of them would stick in the mind as being particularly catch however Franz rendition of In Old Bavaria is very funny as is Where did we go right performed by Max and Leo which has some of the best lines and is very sharp in its delivery and the humor used.
I would certainly recommend this show and I cannot imagine that the film will be anything like as entertaining. If however you are more into the traditional musicals like Les Miserables then you may find the humor and language a bit course however my memories of Les Miss is that there is a lot of suggestive stuff in it at times. There is bad language in this musical so not suitable for the very young however I would take my 12 and 10 year olds to see it as I think they would find it hilarious.
This is currently appearing at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane which is located right in the heart of theatre land located close to Covent Garden tube station. Upon leaving the tube station walk down into the square and then turn left out of the square and the theatre is straight ahead.
It is a wonderful old theatre with the most ornate ceiling and hanging lights. Being quite old the seating is not of the highest standard with limited leg room unless you splash out on a box and certainly in the Upper Circle and Balcony (cheap seats) the slope is quite steep when heading for your seats which are good for inducing mild feelings of vertigo.
I did notice some ramped access for wheelchair uses but it is best to contact the theatre before booking to establish what facilities are available.
We did not sample the bars however there were a few and the usual concession stands selling programmes.
Ticket prices start from £20 for the balcony however we got on upgrade on the day of our performance to the Upper Circle as the show was far from sold out with top seats going for £45.
Thanks for reading and rating my review.
The Producers ranks as one of the finest comedies ever written with Mel Brooks being hailed as a genius after its release. Now a new stage version at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane is set to take the London scene by storm. Nathan Lane and Lee Evans star as the Broadway producer and his hapless accountant who hatch a plan to stage the worst and most unpopular musical ever in a bid to remove investors' money after the resulting box office disaster. But little are they to know Springtime For Hitler will turn into a smash and destroy their plans... With the original film winning a Best Original Screenplay Oscar and two superbly talented comic actors in this stage version you can guarantee an evening of total hilarity.