There were five steps to Max Bialystock’s scheme: find a horrible play, hire horrible actors and a horrible director, raise $2 million, open and close on Broadway and split with the cash. It was infallible. Of course, if writer and director Mel Brooks had planned to grab $2 million and go to Rio after “The Producers” hit Broadway, he would have faced the same fate as the two protagonists in the adaptation of his 1968 film.
This weekend, university students and faculty have a rare treat in store. “The Producers,” by Mel Brooks, will be at the Knoxville Auditorium for a limited three-day engagement starting this Friday.
When asked why she enjoys assisting the production, local artist Sandra Herrera, Wig Mistress for the Knoxville Opera, who is providing hair and wigs, said that it’s rare for Knoxville locals to see such a high caliber musical in their hometown.
“It is a different level of production,” Herrera said. “Here we have high school, junior college, college professional, college student and community playhouse levels, so we have a lot of opportunity to see plays. But there is a difference in the Broadway sound that we see with productions such as the Nederlander Group brings to us.” The Nederlander Group is the company in charge of the touring company.
As far as the musical is concerned, “The Producers” was nominated for 15 Tony Awards in 2001 and received 12, including Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical (Nathan Lane), Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical (Gary Beach) and Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical (Cady Huffman). It even surpassed “Hello, Dolly!” for the most Tony Awards.
The rest of the Tony Awards went to the crew and designers of the show.
While the award-winning designers and actors in the original production will not be coming to Knoxville this weekend, the spirit of Mel Brooks will certainly be in the air. From his zany movies to his musical productions, most works under Brooks’ name are successful despite the fact that he has created a reputation for being outrageously scandalous.
“UT students are going to enjoy it,” Lauren Creveling, publicity manager for Broadway in Knoxville, said. The costuming is outrageous and includes “women donned in sausages.”
As with any Mel Brooks show, “The Producers” is controversial. For example, in order to fulfill step one, characters Max and Leo decide upon a musical entitled “Springtime for Hitler” by the fictional playwright Franz Liebkind. The raucous musical number carries with it the Brooks charm.
If you enjoyed the 2005 movie version, then you’ll definitely enjoy the Broadway version. It has been favored over the film by many theatre buffs, including Creveling.
“This production is going to blow the audience away,” she said.
The show starts Friday at the Civic Auditorium at 8 p.m. and continues through Sunday, showing at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday. Tickets range from $18 to $58.