Last week, the Mirvishes announced that The Producers will be closing September 5, making it one of the shortest-lived commercial musicals in recent memory. So what happened to the show proudly marketed as the winner of "the most Tony Awards in history"?
Blame it on demographics, casting and timing.
The show itself is an old-fashioned, politically incorrect romp with comic roots in the Jewish Borscht Belt circuit about two odd-couple producers who try to mount the worst show ever so they can pocket their investors' money when the show closes early.
Hmmm... get the irony?
As the show proved on Broadway, where it's still running, it needs a pair of big-name male stars in the leads. These are roles that stars take on; actors don't become stars playing them.
Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick fit the bill perfectly. Both are theatre vets but are also known to a wider audience, Lane from The Birdcage and The Lion King (the movie, not the stage show), Broderick as Ferris Bueller turned Mr. Sarah Jessica Parker.
Casting is critical. Even a star can't guarantee a hit. When Seinfeld's Jason Alexander (no stranger to theatre, by the way) stepped into the Lane role in the L.A. production, he stumbled.
And who did Toronto get? Seán Cullen and Michael Therriault. Cullen is a supremely talented comic known for his witty improvised songs - he's more Rivoli than Royal Alex. Therriault, as his accountant sidekick, has more acting (and musicals) experience, but mostly via Stratford. Toronto just doesn't have the same rich theatre tradition, and The Producers, at its twisted, cynical heart, is about the myth and magic of theatre.
It's also not a Disney show, and increasingly musicals, if they're looking to settle into a theatre for a few years, need to cater to the minivan set. The Lion King, Beauty And The Beast, Phantom Of The Opera and Les Misérables were all family-friendly. How do you explain horny grannies, insane neo-Nazis and a singing, dancing swastika - all present and accounted for in The Producers - to your 10-year-old?
Another strike against The Producers is its lack of a gay-affirming message. Sure, there are a couple of flamboyant gay stereotypes, but that's nothing compared to the cozy liberal message embedded in recent hits like Hairspray and Rent.
(Message to Producers - and aspiring producers: the stereotype about gay guys liking musicals is true. Bet it helped out the New York production to have gay icon Lane in the lead.)
You've got another few months to see The Producers. It's worth checking out. Just leave the kids and your queer buddies at home.