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Sue Kruse
The Producers

The Producers publicity cast photos © Norma Jean Roy, Paul Kolnik
The Producers publicity cast photos © Norma Jean Roy, Paul Kolnik

"The Führer is causing a furor."*

Did you ever think you'd read those words here on MousePlanet, dear readers?

I'd wager not.

I've just returned from New York, and I can tell you, spring time (for Hitler) is busting out all over. The hottest ticket in town is Mel Brooks' new musical, The Producers, and with good reason. It's hysterically funny, highly entertaining, and worth every penny of the $100 ticket price... if you can get one. A line from the show pretty much sums it up:

It was shocking, outrageous, insulting…
I loved every minute of it!*

I have a feeling that if you were to stand outside New York's St. James Theatre when the show is in progress, you would be able to hear the audience laughter, even with the doors shut.

The Producers publicity cast photos © Norma Jean Roy, Paul Kolnik
The Producers publicity cast photos © Norma Jean Roy, Paul Kolnik

The Producers is about a sleazy Broadway producer, Max Bialystock and what happens when he meets the timid and blue blanket-carrying accountant, Leo Bloom.

In the movie, the parts of Max and Leo were played respectively by Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder (who received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor). Together, the two set out on a money-making scheme to produce the worst flop in history. They oversell the show to Max's bevy of Little Old Ladies to raise money, find the worst musical ever written, the worst director and the worst leading man. In short, they do everything they can to make Springtime For Hitler fail so they can take off with the excessive amount of money they raised. Of course, it's a big hit.

I went to New York City knowing I would be reviewing The Producers. All along, I've been trying to figure out what approach I would take with this column. Since MousePlanet pertains primarily to Disney, I felt I needed to work a Disney angle in. I thought I'd take the tack that the actors behind the voices of Timon and Simba, the singing voice of Scamp and Hercules, and the original actor to play Lumiere in the stage version of Beauty and the Beast, are all in The Producers. So there it is; the obligatory Disney connection is out of the way. Now, dear readers, let's get down to brass tacks and talk about The Producers.

Having spent a week in New York and seen seven shows (including The Full Monty, 42nd Street, Rocky Horror Show, Follies, Bells Are Ringing, and The Seussical) in a four-day whirlwind tour, I can say without a moment of hesitation that The Producers was my absolute favorite show -- I'm practically a cheerleader for it.

The Producers publicity cast photos © Norma Jean Roy, Paul Kolnik
The Producers publicity cast photos © Norma Jean Roy, Paul Kolnik

My enthusiasm started way back in April. Flashback to Sue's not- too- distant past...

My friend Carroll calls me at work. "Sue, do you want to go to New York?"

"Of course I do," I reply.

"You have to decide what shows you want to see, then."

My reply was short, yet succinct: "I want to see The Producers."

Carroll made all the reservations and we had a date with the St. James Theatre for 8:00 Friday evening on April 27th, one week after The Producers officially opened. I was excited.

The Producers publicity cast photos © Norma Jean Roy, Paul Kolnik
The Producers publicity cast photos © Norma Jean Roy, Paul Kolnik

The following week Carroll arrived at my house, waving something in my face. It was a cast recording CD from The Producers. He was kind. He had resisted the temptation to open it and listen to the music before me. We fired up the CD player.

"You don't mind if we listen to Springtime for Hitler first, do you?"

"Do I? What? Are you nuts? Let's hear it."

Germany was having trouble, what a sad, sad story
Needed a new leader to restore its former glory*

Ah . . . you've got to love a song with lyrics like,

Deutschland is happy and gay
We're marching to a faster pace
Look out, here comes the master race*

So, wrong and so very, very funny.

Carroll and I listened to Springtime For Hitler a couple dozen times more until my daughter protested, "Is that all that CD plays? Enough already! I don't want to hear any more about springtime and Hitler!"

We tried to appease her pain by playing the CD in its entirety. A couple of dozen times. I think it's safe to say we were obsessed. The music is full of nice little winks at musical theatre, a nod or two to past Mel Brooks efforts and well, just plain good fun. We couldn't stop laughing. I suddenly found myself wanting to become the voluptuous Ulla and walk around saying, "Now Ulla dance. Remember when Ulla dance? Ulla dance again."

The Producers publicity cast photos © Norma Jean Roy, Paul Kolnik
The Producers publicity cast photos © Norma Jean Roy, Paul Kolnik

Ulla is the Swedish dish of a secretary that Max and Leo hire. She can't speak much English, but what she can do is dance, look real good, and answer the phone, "Bialystock and Bloom."

Morning schmorning! [I've been listening to way too much Mel Brooks.] It was more like afternoon. One of the luxuries of traveling with my friend Carroll is that he loves to keep late hours and sleep in as much as I do which I can't do at home. On vacation, my motto is: "Stay up 'til 4:00 in the morning and sleep till 3:00 in the afternoon."

Virgin MegaStore, Times Square
Virgin MegaStore, Times Square

So, where were we? Ah yes, Carroll and I got up around 3:00 in the afternoon, and seeing as we had a few hours to kill before we had to be at the theatre, we headed for the Virgin MegaStore at Times Square. Amazingly enough, we managed not to spend much money there (a near- impossible feat for either Carroll or me). But our desire to purchase much- needed and not- to- be- lived- without music was far from satiated.

We decided to walk to a little gem of a store called Footlight Records, and I held my breath as we passed the Sephora store on Times Square. With three glorious floors of make-up, this store makes its Downtown Disney's version in Anaheim look positively small and understocked.

It was a long, long walk. We could have taken a taxi, but we both like to walk, I love looking at the city, and we are both cheap -- why spend money on a cab when you can spend it on a CD or a theatre ticket, or our new and favorite discovery: Neuhaus chocolate? You don't get a good look at everything if you're in a car. Besides, I can drive all over the place in my nice little red convertible in California. In New York, I walk.

New York skyline
New York skyline

So, we walked. Did I mention how far it was? From Times Square to 12th Street is a nice walk -- something around 32 blocks. It took a while to get there. I amused myself by looking at the architecture of the buildings. In addition to the obvious choices like the Chrysler Building, there are all kinds of splendid little embellishments that I love seeing, like Corinthian capitals, gingerbread, and gargoyles, weathered old bricks, beautiful windows, and key- stoned arches. I got to see that famous wedge- shaped Flatiron Building, and Union Square.

After a quick stop at a donut shop (since it was now around 5:00 and we hadn't eaten yet) for a little high- caloric, sugar- filled nourishment, we finally reach Footlight Records. "I can spend hours in here and tons of money. I'm just warning you," Carroll says. "Okay, great," I think. "I'm going to be quickly bored."

I look around. Except for the display in the window (which made my heart beat a little faster, it's filled with vintage tin wind-up toys that are just wonderful), I thought the store was a little disappointing and not much to look at, but Carroll immediately dives into the stacks of records and CDs looking for that special, out- of- print CD to make his collection complete. He came up for air with a copy of the Japanese version of Annie Get Your Gun. I knew I was in for a long haul. I tried to breathe.

As Carroll wanders off with eyes agog (not unlike Mr. Toad's) at the selection of hard-to-get stuff laid before him, I try to find ways to amuse myself. Footlight Records has notebook after notebook of CDs to peruse. Some are new, some are used, and some are very hard to come by -- and they are priced accordingly. They also have bin after bin of record albums. There is everything from show tunes to jazz to foreign language recordings, to... you name it. It's a music enthusiast's paradise.

Carroll is completely lost by now. I try harder to amuse myself. I find the jazz section and I suddenly got, well, jazzed. I love the music of Duke Ellington. Suddenly, Footlight Records starts to become interesting. There are books and books and books filled with selections available for purchase, but Carroll interrupts my concentration. "Here's something you will probably want, and it's cheap. $9.50. Duke Ellington's Timon of Athens." I grab it from his hands. I'm not sure he knows what he started with that, but I begin to jot down selection after selection for the staff to fetch for me.

Then, the moment that could really damage to my credit card occurs. Carroll asks if I've looked at the Disney selections. "No," I reply. "I don't know where to look." At the back of the store is a bin filled with Disney stuff.

"Don't you want Nightmare in French?" Carroll wonders out loud, as I begin walking towards the Disney bin. For the longest time, I tried to locate a copy of L'Étrange Noël De Monsieur Jack, with no success. I couldn't buy one in Paris when I went there a couple of years ago, and I haven't been able to order it anywhere. When Carroll produced a copy of it from the Disney books at Footlight Records, I think I squealed. The amount of foreign language Disney recordings available was a veritable treasure trove. I also found Le Bossu De Notre Dame (another one on my want list), La Belle et la Bête and Peter Pan. I was ecstatic.

Poor Carroll. He warned me that he would spend hours looking through the selections and max out his credit card. He ended up waiting for me, and I was the one who spent way too much money. When I heard the cash register going ka-ching, ka-ching in my head, I had to put a few things back. Alas, Peter Pan in French stayed behind, but, I can now listen to Bienvenue À Halloween, Le Boogie Blues, Les Cloches de Notre-Dame, Rien qu'un jour, C'est la fête, and Histoire éternelle. Footlight Records is a good thing.

If you're looking for something hard to find (would that I could have found a copy of Duke Ellington's Nutcracker Suite), then Footlight Records is for you. It's located at:

113 East 12th Street
New York, NY 10003
(212) 533-1572
(Here's a LINK to their site also)

On to more important matters.

After the Footlight Frenzy, we check the time. It's around 6:45 and we haven't eaten anything but a donut, which was hardly nutritious, even if it was yummy. Carroll queries, "Do you want to get something to eat here or back up near the theatre?" We had an eight o'clock date with the St. James Theatre, you remember.

"Here," I reply. I'm about to perish from hunger.

We walk a few blocks in the direction of 44th Street and decide to stop in at a fast-food chicken place. We're in the midst of a fried chicken-finger feast (in all its greasy glory) when Carroll asks what the time is. I get out my phone. "7:15."

SEVEN-FIFTEEN!!!!

We're at least a half-hour walk from the St. James Theatre. We dash out of the restaurant and begin the long trek back uptown to the theatre district. Now you may be thinking to yourselves, dear readers, that the logical thing would have been to take a taxi or even pop down into the subway. That would have indeed been correct. But, since neither Carroll nor I are the logical sort, we didn't do this. Also, we had that "cheap thing" going, if you remember.

We walk. We walk really fast. It's a workout. Carroll, who's much taller than I am and has much longer legs, takes great strides. I'm rather like that little dog belonging to the elegant lady (only much better looking and without all the fur, of course). My poor legs are working double time and I still can't keep up.

"Are you alright?" Carroll asked as he streamed through the crowd, dodging person after person.

"Of course I am. You forget. I've had training for this at Disneyland during the summer. I used to dash from the parking lot to the Festival Arena to catch the last Festival of Fools show five minutes before show time and I always made it. I've made my way through the Main Street Electrical Parade's closing days. I've braved the Fourth of July fireworks crowds. I can do it!"

We arrive at the theatre with five minutes to spare, right along with Jerry Seinfeld, who is standing next to us as we enter the theatre. It's my guess that Jerry didn't feel like he just came from the gym, though. It was a workout walking those gazillion blocks in record time. No, I'd imagine Jerry took a taxi. Or a limo. I bet he didn't have nearly as good a story to tell about how he arrived at the theatre.

But was it ever exciting to be at the St. James Theatre! I don't think I can adequately describe it. First of all, everyone there had probably heard that the show was terrific, so they were all worked up over being there. There was a buzz of electricity in the air. We ticket holders breeze past the poor, pitiful souls who've been standing in line since God knows what time -- hoping for a cancellation, standing room, anything -- just to be able to see The Producers.

The Producers publicity cast photos © Norma Jean Roy, Paul Kolnik
The Producers publicity cast photos © Norma Jean Roy, Paul Kolnik

Then, Carroll and I discover the souvenir stand. Bialystock and Bloom T-shirts, hats, and CDs. We each buy a T-shirt and lament the fact that no programs are available. Yet. A kind lady at the stand gives us a business card and tells us that programs would be coming soon. I need one.

We find our seats. The woman with the big hair who always sits in front of me, sits this time in front of Carroll. That was nice. Not for Carroll, but for me. I could see the stage. I had "the man who thinks half of my seat is his too" next to me though, so I guess we're about even. I don't think either of us care, though. After all, Carroll and I are actually sitting in the St. James theatre, to see the hottest show in town a week after it opened to rave reviews on Broadway . . . and the curtain's about to go up!


CONTINUED

The Producers publicity cast photos © Norma Jean Roy, Paul Kolnik
The Producers publicity cast photos © Norma Jean Roy, Paul Kolnik

Also

Page Two

More Information

The Tony Nominations

Best Musical
Best Book of a Musical
Best Original Score Written for the Theatre
Best Performan by a Leading Actor in a Musical
Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical
Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical
Best Scenic Design
Best Costume Design
Best Lighting Design
Best Choreography
Best Direction of a Musical
Best Orchestration

Theater Information

St. James Theatre
246 West 44th Street
New York
(212) 239-6200
(800) 432-7250
Group should call:
(212) 302-7000
(800) 677-1164

Tele-Charge tickets for the St. James Theater

Showtimes:
Monday-Saturday, 8pm
Matinees:
Wednesday and Saturday, 2pm
Sunday, 3pm

* Quoted lyrics are either ©2001 by Mel Brooks or ©1968 by Legation Music Corp.

  Links of Interest

The Show's Official Site

Sony Classics Cast Album Official Site

Official Tony Site

Footlight Records

CLICK HERE to buy album from Amazaon
CLICK HERE to purchase album via Amazon

 

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