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Max and Leo After Nathan and Matthew

?Let?s Cast The Producers!? Or, ?At Play in the Fields of Mel Brooks.?

With not a whole hell of a lot going on this summer, theater buffs are heading to such websites as the ever-popular to further discuss The Story of the Year: i.e., The Producers. Since every conceivable aspect of the Broadway production starring Nathan Lane as Max Bialystock and Matthew Broderick as Leo Bloom has already been mooted, fans are now looking toward the future and attempting to come up with names of other actors who would be great for the roles of Max and Leo--either as Broadway replacements for Lane and Broderick or at the head of touring companies or sit-down productions in other cities.

Jason Alexander
Two favorites seem to have emerged: Jason Alexander and Martin Short. Though Alexander is known to every American couch potato as George Costanza on the epoch-making TV sitcom Seinfeld, his roots are in Broadway theater (Broadway Bound, Jerome Robbins' Broadway, Merrily We Roll Along), and he has both the outsize personality and figure necessary to play Max. Short, for his part, scored great personal successes on Broadway in The Goodbye Girl and Little Me (and at City Center in the Encores! presentation of Promises, Promises) after having achieved TV stardom on Saturday Night Live. His talent for conveying barely contained hysteria is probably what has made people think of him for Leo--and, indeed, The Producers' mastermind Mel Brooks has said that the actor would be a great choice to open an L.A. company of the show.

Other proposed Maxes include John Lovitz (now playing the Henry Winkler role in The Dinner Party) and John Lithgow (who, presumably, will be busy for awhile with the upcoming musical adaptation of Sweet Smell of Success). Meanwhile, Lonny Price and Daniel Jenkins have been floated as potential Leos. Though Lewis J. Stadlen and Ernie Sabella are in many ways brilliant ideas for Max, the former would probably have to gain a lot of weight or wear a fat suit (since the character's girth is important) while, conversely, the latter is so heavy that he might not have the stamina for the huge, powerhouse role.

Some of those who are playing "Let's Cast The Producers" have really let their imaginations run wild. Among the suggested Maxes are Gene Wilder (who, of course, was Leo in the film version of The Producers) and Lea DeLaria (terrific in two cross-gendered roles in The Rocky Horror Show, but less than terrific as Marryin' Sam in the Encores! production of L'il Abner a few seasons ago).

So, what do you folks think? Why not join the game by sending your ideas, however outlandish, to [email protected]. You won't win anything if one of your suggestions is heeded by Brooks and Company, but this just might be your first step on the road to becoming a casting director. Or a producer!

P.S.: Fans who won't accept anything other than the originals should be advised that Lane and Broderick will join Mel Brooks himself in signing copies of the cast album of The Producers at Tower Records' Lincoln Center location, Broadway at 66th Street, on Monday, June 25, beginning at 6pm.

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