Tuesday, June 24, 2008

I Wanna Be a Producer!

Ah, what my summer in St. Louis wouldn't be without a visit to The Muny.

Last week, the fiancee surprised me in a way that I'd never expect such an overtly-straight man to do; he took me to the theatre. No, not just the theatre. The outdoor theatre in St. Louis; the one that specializes in musical theatre.

The reason being that they were running The Producers last week.

I've seen the original movie version (Gene Wilder / Zero Mostel) once, but only after seeing the updated musical version (Matthew Broderick / Nathan Lane) several times. And being an unrepentant fan of musical theatre -- "the greatest two words put together in the English language" as executive producer Paul Blake remarked earlier in the evening -- why wouldn't I?

I had never seen the stage version, so I was delighted to find that was where we were headed Sunday evening after a delectable dinner at Crown Candy Kitchen. Unlike some productions of the past, it did not disappoint; the Muny flew in actors from Broadway for the main roles, and it showed. The set design was the best I've ever seen at the venue, particularly the "Springtime for Hitler" scenes. There's something incredibly powerful about a backdrop of four huge red Nazi flags along the entire Muny stage; it definitely was more startling than watching it on TV.

Mel Brooks is a genius, but the original was definitely wanting of "more," and the musical revival of it perfectly fleshes an already great idea out into a top-notch one. Obviously the movie is the best way to see the show, especially if you can't afford orchestra seats, because you get the full weight of all of the expressions on the actors' faces; which is pretty key in some scenes, and would have been missed had I not already known what was coming. The only problem with relying on the movie is its missing some pretty hilarious tunes like "The King of Broadway," "In Old Bavaria," and "Where Did We Go Right?"

It makes me want to watch the movie all over again. If for no other reason to have "Keep It Gay" stuck in my head, on a loop, for the rest of the week.