Show Title
The Producers

Backstage

The Producers: A true theatre phenomenon

Director Mark Martino explains what has made the beloved musical such a smash hit
By Mark Martino, Director

When the Maltz Jupiter Theatre’s audiences settle into their seats in January for The Producers, they’ll be enjoying one of the handful of shows (in the last 25 years that list would include Rent, Angels in America, The Book of Mormon and Hamilton) that truly rank as unqualified, runaway smash hits. But just what is the elusive brew that cooks up a show that breaks awards and box office records and causes normally-rational people to willingly pay $400 a seat for a couple of hours of belly laughs? Well in the case of The Producers, the recipe is as follows:

  1. Start with Mel Brooks. And then continue with Mel Brooks…and then add just a little more Mel Brooks! The man responsible for some of the golden age of television’s funniest moments proved to be just as adept at writing a theatre script and a musical score. With his trademark “take no prisoners/equal opportunity offender/no sacred cows” brand of humor in full form, he adapted his hilarious 1968 film into a stage show that is a ribald, raucous, breathtakingly politically-incorrect valentine to every show there is – good and bad – about putting on a show.
  2. Add great timing. The show opened in 2001: the start of a new millennium and the height of political correctness. Brooks’ script incorporates and exploits every possible ethnic and sexual stereotype – and manages to always find the funny. We were so ready to laugh at all of those forbidden topics (gays, Jews, Hitler, secretaries who are not known for their typing skills) and audiences couldn’t help themselves as they poured into the theatre for that group guffaw. Having that theatre full of laughter every night led to the most crucial factor in hit-making: word of mouth. Everyone who left the theatre told someone else how hard they had laughed at things they shouldn’t find funny – and a hit was born.
  3. Factor in rave reviews. A few quotes from the musical’s original reviews: “a sublimely ridiculous spectacle,” “fast, fierce, shameless, vulgar and altogether blissful,” “shrill stereotypes transformed into comic archetypes,” “tasteless; but exudes a refreshing air of innocence. Brooks bites the hand that feeds him, but at the same time kisses it quite sincerely.”
  4. Throw in a sense of occasion and the scarcity of tickets. By the time The Producers opened, the entire town was buzzing about what Brooks was pulling off at the St James Theatre – and the difficulty of securing a ticket only made it that much more desirable to be one of the lucky ones who got a seat for the silliness.
  5. Make something strikingly different. If you look at all of the shows that became huge hits, they have one thing in common: they all created something that didn’t look anything like the rest of Broadway at the time. When The Producers came along using every gag, gadget and gimmick that you’d find in an old vaudeville trunk, it let us rediscover the joy of humor that knows no boundaries, aiming straight at our funny bone without irony or introspection. In 2001, that felt bracingly fresh and irresistible to audiences.

I can’t wait to direct The Producers for the Maltz Jupiter Theatre. I know from my past happy experiences at the Theatre that we can – and will – offer our own spectacularly produced version of this once-in-a-lifetime musical. I am so looking forward to sharing this show with you in January; I’ll be the one in the back laughing long and loud at the outrageous antics, and shedding a quiet happy tear for the sweet sincere love of show business that informs all of those laughs.

BOX INFO:
The Producers
January 10 – 29
Sponsored by Jane Napier and William W. Napier