The good news is that Nathan Lane is recreating his 2001 Tony award-winning performance in the long-overdue London transfer of the smash Broadway hit The Producers. The bad news is that he is only doing it until January 8, before he leaves to star in a new film version of the show.
But the even better news, for anyone lucky enough to get tickets to see it here in the next nine weeks, is that it reunites Lane with British comedian Lee Evans, his co-star from the 1997 film comedy Mouse Hunt. Together they are a dream team that seems to have been conjured up in musical comedy heaven.
There isn’t a funnier double act on the London stage right now, nor more laughs-per-minute to be had than in The Producers, an entirely irresistible and irrepressible confection. Like some of the best Broadway musicals of the last fifty years from Kiss Me, Kate and 42nd Street to A Chorus Line, it is a valentine to the art of making theatre itself.
Here, in Mel Brooks’ own stage adaptation - with Thomas Meehan - of his 1968 film that Brooks has also provided music and lyrics for, is an ode to the individuality of theatre producers. There is an irony in there somewhere that in the new corporate theatrical world of Broadway it has taken some 11 producing or general management entities to bring it to the London stage.
There is another irony that its story - of the deliberate attempts of fabled fictional producers Bialystock (Lane) and Bloom (Evans) to produce a monster flop and pocket the residual investment, a ploy which spectacularly backfires when it turns into a massive hit instead - should itself become the basis for one of Broadway’s biggest recent hits. Oh, the theatre! The only thing that can be predicted is that nothing can be predicted.
Certainly the show has not been without legendary backstage dramas of its own to add to that unpredictability. Lane’s original Broadway replacement, British actor Henry Goodman, was dismissed three weeks into his run there, while Richard Dreyfuss, originally announced to play the role here, departed just a week before previews were due to begin.
Lane may certainly be a tough act to follow but Evans, in his musical debut, is also the stuff of instant theatrical legend. You won’t want to miss them - nor the outstanding supporting cast that director/choreographer Susan Stroman has assembled around them which includes hilarious contributions from Conleth Hill, Leigh Zimmerman, Nicolas Colicos and James Dreyfus.