Silly Fun: Mel Brook’s The Producers

The Producers, the Musical, in Boise

The Producers, the Musical, in Boise

Mrs. WC took WC to the Boise stop of the national tour of Mel Brook’s The Producers, the Broadway musical Brooks created out of his 1968 movie of the same name.1 The musical won a boat load of Tony Awards when it came out in 2001, and it says something about the show’s durability that it is still selling out houses across the country.

If you have been living under a rock, the premise of the movie and the musical is that two Jewish Broadway producers conceive a scheme to swindle money by making the worst musical in the world, ever: Springtime for Hitler, “a love letter to Hitler” written in total sincerity by a deranged ex-Nazi, to be directed by the worst director who ever lived, with the worst cast ever assembled. It’s a sure-fire flop.

Written by Mel Brooks, the show mocks Broadway, and especially Broadway producers, and the entire Broadway industry. As well as savaging neo-Nazis, gays, Jews, Swedish blondes, old ladies and probably a dozen others that WC is overlooking.

Some of the humor feels a little dated. The extended gay jokes fall a little flat, and the token African-American cast member’s mugging is awkward. A lot has happened in America since 2001 (and 1968) and the musical, of course, is still trapped back there. But most of the sketches are hysterically funny. The chorus line of little old ladies on walkers, in particular, takes tap-dancing to a whole new level. The send-up of public accounting is pretty special, too. The humor ranges from sophomoric to subtle, from crass to sensitive: it’s Mel Brooks.

And as always in a Mel Brook production, there are some surprisingly tender moments, too. The relationship between Max Bialystock and Leopold Bloom, the two would-be swindlers, has its sweet moments. And the stock dumb blonde, Ulla,2 who sings “If You Got It, Flaunt It” turns out to both have it and to be very good at flaunting it.

All in all, slightly dated, sentimental and intentionally tasteless fun. The current cast is good, and the production is very good. WC can hardly wait for the musical version of Blazing Saddles.

  1. Don’t confuse the Broadway musical (a musical based on a movie) with the 1968 movie of the same name or with the 2005 movie of the musical (a movie of a musical based on a movie about a musical). It’s easy to get confused. 
  2. Technically, Ulla Inga Hansen Benson Yansen Tallen Hallen Svaden Swanson. Bloom.