The Producers has been on my “list” of shows to see for some time (insomuch as someone living in Dublin can maintain a list of Broadway shows), at least since when it hadn’t been playing on the one free night of my previous trip and I went to see “Rent” instead.
This was kind of “it” for me and Broadway: after the mediocrity of the aforementioned “Rent”, the horrors of “Momma Mia!” (deserving of a post in itself, if not an entire blog cataloguing minute by minute the awfulness) and the seeming lack of classics such as “West Side Story” or “Guys and Dolls”, I really haven’t enjoyed anything on Broadway and although last night’s “Spamalot” was fair, it neither improved nor dis-improved matters.
I had enjoyed both films (“Monty Python and the Holy Grail” and “The Producers”) but the chief difference – and strength – with “The Producers” against the other is that it is no more than the majority of the film’s dialogue along with some good songs. In other words, everything you liked about the film along with some good, relevant, numbers penned – intriguingly – by Mel Brooks himself.
Is this a real musical? Certainly there’s much more talking than singing, but then something like “West Side Story” is the same. Whatever it is, it works: each scene from the film is realised here with a minimum of change, the sets are, for a change, interesting and varied and the songs are musically interesting with no filler. I guess that really does make it a musical, and a good one at that.
Perhaps I’m biased towards jazzy shows, but compare the songs with “Momma Mia” (every song shoe-horned in, e.g. woman searches for purse then bursts into “Money, money, money”) or even “Spamalot” where the songs are instantly forgettable (except for “Always Look…”, itself shoe-horned into the wrong adapation) and this is heads and shoulders above.
Seeing “Springtime for Hitler” performed – as the play within a play – on Broadway itself is really quite spectacular and the idea of a Broadway show playing on Broadway is something played up really well; I’ve no idea how they adapted this to the West End. Far more important, however, it highlights how it made sense to adapt this film to Broadway unlike, perhaps, some other material (or, in the case, of “Momma Mia”, no material).
The “show within a show” theme might also explain the show’s appeal to Larry David, in the fourth year of Curb Your Enthusiasm (which brought the idea of self-referencing shows to strange new levels). Indeed, it was a little strange seeing the opening scenes played out in real life, having seen Larry David’s very good rendition on the TV.
Also, in addition, there are also any number of nice touches – the nod to “Porgy and Bess” being my favourite – and the acting is perfectly fine. Perhaps not up to Gene Wilder, but at least there were no accidental Australians in this show (a few comical Irish though!) – Americans doing what they do best.