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Brooks "Producers" Advance Sale Tops 10 Mil
Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick star in the estimated $10.5 million production of Mel Brooks' comedy classic, "The Producers," which is planning an April 19 opening at the St. James on Broadway, with previews to start March 21. Lane and Broderick will play the roles originated by Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder in the zany satire of Broadway musicals.

Roger Bart, who will play the slinky director's assistant Carmen Gia, won a Tony award for his performance as Snoopy in the 1999 Broadway revival of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown. On Broadway, he also played Bud Frump in How to Succeed and Harlequin in Triumph of Love. He recently took over the lead in the Off-Broadway hit, Fully Committed.

The supporting cast: Gary Beach (Broadway's original Lumiere in Beauty and the Beast) as the ostentatiously effete director Roger DeBris, and Cady Huffman (Ziegfeld's Favorite in The Will Rogers Follies) as the sexy receptionist Ulla. Brad Oscar has taken over the role of the hapless Nazi playwright Franz Liebkind from Ron Orbach, who withdrew for knee surgery.

Composer/lyricist/librettist Brooks had been advertising the show with a tongue-in-cheek radio spot saying "the producers will not allow me to reveal the name of the show" and "the producers will have a surprise" for Broadway audiences when tickets went on sale.

Brooks had sought Lane to do the role for more than a year. When Lane was guest-hosting David Letterman's "The Late Show" March 2, Brooks used a guest appearance to slap a contract down in front of Lane and beg him to sign. At that time, Lane told the audience that the production was a "done deal" and that he would star with Martin Short in the Broadway production.

Fresh from winning the 2000 Tony Award as Best Choreographer for Contact, Susan Stroman will direct and choreograph the Broadway production. Stroman replaces her late husband, director Mike Ockrent, who died in December 1999.

The Brooks/Stroman stage musical project is based on Brooks' cheerfully tasteless 1968 cult film, which mercilessly spoofed everything about Broadway. Mostel and Gene Wilder starred as two producers who plan a unique scam: They sell 25,000 percent of a new Broadway musical, hoping no one will ask what happened to the money after the show closes.

The only requirement, however, is that the show must be a flop, so no one will ask where the money went.

To ensure their show will bomb, they hire the worst director, worst star and worst designers to put together their chosen property, Springtime for Hitler, billed as "a gay romp with Adolph and Eva at Berchtesgaden."

Naturally, things do not go as planned.

The film score includes "Love Power," "Prisoner of Love" and the ineffable title song, which contains the line, "We're marching to a faster pace/ Look out, here comes the master race!"

Stroman added that Brooks is writing new tunes, as well, and they are collaborating with Tom Meehan (Annie) on the book.

Fri Mar 16 2001 (11:28:21 PM)