Mel Brooks is a genius.
That statement could literally be about any of his films, but in this case it is about the musical version of The Producers.
First and foremost, using most of the original Broadway production cast in the film was smart, especially because most of them were also accomplished screen actors. Nathan Lane portrays Max Bialystock, an arrogant man whose main objective in life is to make as much money as he possibly can doing as little work as he possibly can. Matthew Broderick plays Leopold “Leo” Bloom, an accountant prone to panic attacks who realizes that there’s a lot more to him than there is to him (No. Not a typo.) Lane and Broderick together are an amazing comedic pair. They both pull parts of their performances from Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel in the original 1967 film, but they quickly make the character’s their own.
Gary Beach and Roger Bart reprise their roles as the worst director on Broadway, Roger Debris, and his Common-Law Assistant, Carmen Ghia, for the film. Honestly, I don’t even know who else you could have put in these roles. These two have crazy good comedic timing and play so well off of each other.
The biggest cast changes come with Franz Liebkind and Ulla. Franz Liebkind, who is not a member of the Nazi party and was never involved with the war (I mean, he didn’t even know there was a war. He lived in the back. Near Switzerland. All he ever heard was yodeling) is played by the wonderful Will Ferrell. Ulla is played by Uma Thurman, whose singing voice, might I say, came as a real surprise to me when I first saw this film. Both of these actors do a wonderful job filling the rather large shoes that their role predecessors left for them (although Brad Oscar does make a quick cameo the cab driver).
I think one of the biggest annoyances with this film (if there are actually any) is that it doesn’t necessarily feel like a movie musical. It almost feels like a recorded version of the stage musical. I mean, even the director of the film, Susan Stroman, was the director of the stage musical (which she won a Tony for.)
The whole film feels rather theatrical, but honestly, I enjoy it. I mainly enjoy it because everything about it is just so clever.
I don’t think I’ve met a person yet who has seen this musical version and not laughed hysterically. And, honestly, I hope that I never do.