Seinfeld sidekick Jason Alexander was confirmed yesterday for the estimable role of Max Bialystock in the L.A. production of the smash hit The Producers. He will be partnered at the Pantages Theater by Martin Short as Leo Bloom.
Though best known for his screen work in TV and film, Short is also a theater fave, having appeared in the stage musical version of The Goodbye Girl and in the 1999 revival of Little Me on Broadway and having starred in the Encores! production of Promises, Promises. Alexander, for his part, was seen in Merrily We Roll Along, Jerome Robbins' Broadway, and other shows before assuming the persona of George Costanza on Seinfeld.
Such big names would presumably have been welcome at the St. James, where the Broadway production of The Producers continues to sell like hot bagels. But, according to one theory, folks like Alexander and Short weren't interested in facing the New York press following the masterful turns of Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick as Bialystock and Bloom--especially not after Henry Goodman, cast to replace Lane, got the bum's rush from The Producers producers before the critics were allowed back into the theater.
Goodman, by the way, had plenty to say on this topic in a London Times interview on July 16, none of it along the lines of let's-let-bygones-be-bygones. "Personally, I think they blew it," he was quoted. "Of course, they'd say, 'No, no, Henry, you blew it.' I just wanted the freedom to deepen my character, make him darker, more like Zero Mostel [who played the part in the original 1968 film]. Just look at these letters"--he chucks down a sheaf of fan mail--"the bookings were fine. The fact is, 60,000 people saw me and no one asked for their money back. But they wanted a clone of Nathan and I wasn't prepared to give them that."
Goodman is in London right now, rehearsing for an upcoming concert presentation of Follies. In the Times article, he says he'd love to do Max again when The Producers makes it to the West End. Meanwhile, the L.A. production of the show is set to begin performances at the Pantages in May 2003.