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London loves The Producers

London loves The Producers

Broadway star Nathan Lane won a thunderous ovation on Tuesday when he stepped in at the last moment to replace Hollywood veteran Richard Dreyfuss in the London premiere of the hit musical The Producers. The British, normally much more reserved than Broadway audiences, went wild for Lane, who created the role and made it his own in New York, where the show won 12 Tony awards. But there was high drama in the lead-up to opening night. Dreyfuss, star of Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, was compelled by injury to pull out last month, forcing writer Mel Brooks to plead with Lane to reprise his role. After the rapturous reception by the first-night audience, Brooks told them, "So much for British reserve; you people should be arrested for disorderly conduct." Lane, who has agreed to step in until January, said, "It was unexpected. It was like being awoken in the middle of the night and told 'Come on, you have to do The Producers again.' It was like the actor's nightmare." In New York, Lane costarred with Matthew Broderick. In London he shares top billing with British comedian Lee Evans. "Matthew was very jealous that I was coming over here to save the day," Lane told Reuters Television. The two will be reunited when the musical is made into a movie next year. Shooting starts in February. The stage show is based on the 1968 Brooks movie, which told the tale of two producers putting on the outrageous musical Springtime for Hitler, conceived as a deliberate flop to allow them to take the backers' cash and flee. Dreyfuss's abrupt departure sparked media speculation that he was not up to the job, and the Hollywood veteran had joked during rehearsals that his body was suffering in the demanding role. But Brooks sprang to his defense, telling Reuters, "Richard Dreyfuss was terrific.... The work was too strenuous. He went to work too soon. He was in agony." Political correctness has never stopped Brooks before. He has thanked Adolf Hitler for inspiring his greatest hit but told Jews not to worry, assuring them that The Producers is a joke. So what is the next boundary of bad taste to be crossed? "I might do the Blair-Bush Follies," he said. "I think it would be a wonderful revue. I think it would be very funny... If they do the parts, we would make a fortune."

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