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Mel BROOKS (b.1926)
The Producers
Max Bialystock – Nathan Lane
Leo Bloom – Matthew Broderick
Ulla – Uma Thurman
Franz Liebkind – Will Ferrell
Roger de Bris – Gary Beach
Carmen Ghia  - Roger Bart
Lead Tenor – John Barrowman
Usherettes – Bryn Dowling and Meg Gillentine
Music and lyrics by Mel Brooks, Music Director and Vocal Arranger Patrick Brady, Dance and Incidental Music Arranger Glen Kelly, Orchestrations Doug Besterman and Larry Blank
Recorded at Right Track Recordings, New York 2005
SONY CLASSICAL 82876 75980 2 [67.31]

 

When Nathan Lane came to town a ticket for The Producers was the hottest in the West End. And when he left it wasn’t. Lane is a Great White Way deity of course but it takes two to tango and a great theatre star belting it out in a turkey is still belting out a turkey. Naturally The Producers is cut from an altogether different beast and we’ve all known it from Mel Brooks’s 1968 film. The Broadway cast now brings it to your compact disc player, relishing an hour or so’s worth of fizz and farce, and announcing the arrival of the production on the silver screen.

That cast is headed by Lane, a man of Wagnerian stamina, the Lauritz Melchior of Broadway, and a worthy inheritor of Zero Mostel’s capacious crown. As Leo Bloom we have the superficially unlikely Matthew Broderick – but Broderick is a versatile character actor and a board-treader of some standing, albeit one can never quite efface Gene Wilder in the role. He is small though – and that helps things theatrically.  Franz Liebkind is hot-to-trot Will Ferrell, though oldsters will cleave to Kenneth Mars. Statuesque Juno Uma Thurman, lately seen on screen slicin’ an’ dicin’ in Tarantino martial art capers, appears as Ulla, a role taken in the film by Lee Meredith. This Valkyrie is one we can all admire.

From the big butch intro through the stompy Yiddish inflected numbers the score is a salami of chutzpah. Samba rhythms are infiltrated into I wanna be a Producer, and a tango coils through Along came Bialy, some G&S patter seeps into That Face, and John Barrowman, the Anglo-American preppy star, takes a fine Lead Tenor in Springtime for Hitler. Never was goose-stepping more enjoyable. A sly Bolero shuffles into Springtime for Hitler – Part II and some salsa into You’ll find your Happiness in Rio. There’s even a bonus track of The King of Broadway.

Above all though it’s Brooks, words and music. And what words, ones that tend to overshadow the music, if we’re being judgemental, which tends to make up in gusto what it lacks in real memorability. Still, the trick is to amuse, excite and titillate the audience and in those spheres Brooks has few peers.

Jonathan Woolf  

 

 


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