This evening we went to go see The Producers. For those who have been living in an isolated universe since 1968, The Producers was originally at mostly-non-musical movie by Mel Brooks starring Zero Mostel, Gene Wilder, Dick Shawn, Kennith Mars, and Lee Meredith. This movie lived as a cult classic (but a wonderful one at that) until 2001, when it was ressurected on Broadway, starring Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick, Roger Bart, Gary Beech, Cady Huffman, and Brad Oscar. Directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman, and with music and lyrics by Mel Brooks, it swept the Tony awards with 12 wins.
So, naturally it made it back to a film. This production was a full musical, and featured the original Broadway director/choreographer and almost the entire original cast. From the original cast, we had Nathan Lane reprising his role as Max Bialystock, Matthew Broderick as Leopold Bloom, Roger Bart as Carmen Ghia, and Gary Beach as Roger De Bris. I should also note that Mel Brooks reprised his role as the voice of Stormtrooper Mel. New cast members included Uma Thurman as Ulla, Will Ferrell as Franz Liebkind, and Jon Lovitz as Mr. Marks. There are some interesting cast notes. Brad Oscar, who played Franz Liebkind (and later Max Bialystock for 6 months) in the original, had an almost cameo role as the Taxi Driver. Also in the movie cast were Debra Monk as Hold Me-Touch Me; Debra is well known for being in Pump Boys and Dinettes and Steel Pier. Richard Kind, who played the Foreman of the Jury in the movie, played Max Bialystock on Broadway from Dec 21, 2004-Jul 3, 2005. Hunter Foster, who was in the ensemble, played Leo Bloom from Jun 15, 2004-Jan 10, 2005, and is currently playing him on Broadway. Brad Musgrove, who was a “Springtime” dancer, played Carmen Ghia on Broadway for almost a year (Dec 17, 2002-Dec 28, 2003). John Treacy Egan, also in the Ensemble, had a number of Broadway roles: Franz Liebkind (May 4, 2002-Apr 24, 2003), Roger De Bris (Apr 25, 2003-Oct 5, 2003), and Max Bialystock (Dec 13, 2004-Dec 20, 2004). Karen Ziemba was an Opening Nighter; she also starred in Steel Pier. In short, you had loads of talent in that cast.
So, what did I think of the movie. It was a reasonable rendition of the musical. There were a few songs cut (in particular, King of All Broadway, In Old Bavaria, and the reprise of Opening Night). There were one-and-two-halves new songs: the new song was There’s Nothing Like A Show on Broadway; the halves were a slow rendition of Der Guten Tag Hop Clop, and Heil Myself, both reworkings. The language was distinctly cleaned up: the joke about “Jewish American Princesses” and no sex was gone, and a lot of the “tit” jokes from King of all Broadway. However, the show energy and style remained, and I found it wonderful.
In fact, Stroman filmed this as a stage musical. In other words, it was very true to the stage production. You knew it wasn’t real, both from the staging of the dancing to the props to the stage magic and even the lighting. I found this in sharp contrast to the recent transfer of Rent. Rent was filmed very realistically, with real sets, and dancing that flowed into the moment. The Producers was filmed like a classic MGM Movie Stage Musical. From what I have read, Brooks did this intentionally as an homage.
As for the story. What is there to tell. After all, doesn’t everyone know “Springtime For Hitler”? If you need more of a summary, click here.
There are lots of little things to watch for in the movie. Watch the reactions of the people in the background. Watch the faces. Watch the birds. That’s what makes this movie worth seeing again and again: the attention to the humorous detail. It’s what made Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein such classics.
I also found Uma Thurman to be quite strikingly beautiful. For someone who isn’t a singer or dancer, she can do both. Her face is both girlish and feminine. Wow! In fact, I found myself watching faces much more closely than one does on a musical, perhaps due to closeness. Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane have remarkably expressive faces. Do watch the faces as you watch the movie.
I should also mention there was one line that made me think of my dad. In the “I Wanna Be A Producer” number, Leo (who is a lowly PA [Public Accountant]) quits his job, and his boss (played by Jon Lovitz) lords over him the fact he is a CPA [Certified Public Accountant]. My dad was a PA; my mom was a CPA; and he always seemed to regret that he couldn’t get that “C”. Dad: If you’re watching this wherever you are, this shows that sometimes the PA’s win.
We saw this in a small theatre, which was full. I hope this bodes well. You do need to remain until the end of the credits; the last song occurs after the credits are over.
As for the trailer report. I don’t remember them all, but here’s what stands out:
- Dreamgirls. Not much show. The cast doesn’t impress me (Jamie Foxx, Eddie Murphey, Beyonce). What bothered me more is that they used Jennifer Holliday’s vocals when she isn’t even in the movie (Effie is played by Jennifer Hudson). Tacky, tacky, tacky.
- Lady in the Water. Feh. No interest at all.
- Last Holiday with Queen Latifah. Looks like it could be funny, but as a rental. Not worth seeing in the theatre.
- The Break Up with Jennifer Aniston. Feh. I don’t think she is that great of an actress to begin with.
- Madea’s Family Reunion. I didn’t find it that interesting.
At least that’s all the trailers I can remember.