Nathan Lane returns to The Producers, needles Rosie

BY admin

January 01 2004 1:00 AM ET

It's springtime for Broadway once more: Nathan and Matthew are back together again. To roars of approval, Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, the original stars of The Producers, returned Tuesday night to the Mel Brooks musical at Broadway's St. James Theatre. As soon as Lane, who plays charlatan producer Max Bialystock in the show, stepped out onto the stage, theatergoers started cheering. Moments later they did the same for Broderick, who portrays Leopold Bloom, Bialystock's nebbish accomplice. Both stars appeared relaxed and expansive, embellishing their performances with new bits of vocal and physical business. Lane got one of the biggest laughs of the evening when he warned the neophyte Bloom, "Never put your own money in a show. That's taboo." It was an inside-theater reference to the $10 million and more Rosie O'Donnell has put up as producer of the Boy George musical Taboo. When Broderick dropped his cane during the show's finale, Lane affectionately patted him on the cheek as the theatergoers applauded.

The sold-out audience seemed determined to have a good time--and did."It was the funniest thing I have ever seen," said Barbara Staudt of Middletown, N.J. She and her husband had gotten tickets through Lane's brother, Daniel, principal at Middletown High School South, where Staudt works as his secretary. "We are too young to have seen the original Oklahoma! and we missed Les Miserables, so we had to see The Producers," said Bob Tobin of Morganville, N.J., who, with his wife, Stacey, had bought two premium second-row tickets. Each cost $480--although most tickets in the theater sell for $100.

The Producers, about a pair of con artists who overfinance a Broadway musical called Springtime for Hitler in hopes of producing a flop, has had a strange, roller-coaster life on Broadway. After it opened at the St. James in April 2001, the show, which won a record 12 Tony awards, became Broadway's hottest ticket. It remained so until Lane and Broderick left the musical a year later. Henry Goodman, Lane's replacement, was fired within the month. "Not funny enough" was the complaint, and Goodman was replaced by understudy Brad Oscar. Since then, the musical, which until Tuesday's performance was headlined by Fred Applegate and Don Stephenson, has had respectable grosses, though not exactly sellout levels. With Lane and Broderick once again in the show, The Producers has returned to tough-ticket status, with the musical basically sold out the entire length of their engagement, through April 4. Yet there are still some $480 tickets available, according to Richard Frankel, one of the musical's producers. About 150 tickets are being set aside for each performance to be sold at that price through Broadway Inner Circle, a premium ticket service, Frankel said Tuesday. And, of course, tickets are on sale for after Lane and Broderick leave in April. No word yet on their replacements.

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