One of the first things you'll learn about me as we spend time together here is that I love Musical theater, absolutely adore it (and, yes, I'm straight, thank you very much for asking). Whenever I'm in New York, I spend every available evening catching every musical that I haven't already seen (and often some I already have). Here in LA, my wife and I are longtime season ticket holders for a wonderful organization called Reprise that, three times a year, puts on classic or little seen shows with minimal sets but overwhelming enthusiasm. So far this season we've seen Gershwin's "My One and Only" with Sondheim's "Sunday in the Park with George" and Richard Rogers' "No Strings" yet to premiere in February and May. We'll talk more about Reprise in the months to come.
Suffice it to say, I'm always checking the show biz trades and online services for any news about Broadway. So imagine my surprise when I read that tonight -- yes, this very night -- a new lead with be stepping into the role of Max Bialystock in the Broadway production of the musical version of "The Producers!" Now the original film is arguably the funniest movie ever made, and the original Broadway company starring Nathan Lane was not exactly chopped liver. Once again, Lane stepped into a role made famous by the late, great Zero Mostel, and almost made it his own. Lane had done so before in "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" and, I'm firmly convinced, will do so again someday in the role of Tevye in "Fiddler on the Roof."
Since Lane departed the Broadway cast, the role has been assayed by, among others, Jason Alexander, the wonderful Brad Oscar and TV's Richard Kind, all well-suited to play an overweight, middle-aged Jew with a bad combover. So who takes over the role tonight? Are you ready? Sitting down? Good.
Because tonight, and for the next three months, Broadway's Max Bialystock will be portrayed by...Tony Danza!
Yes, THAT Tony Danza.
Now please don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying that Mr. Danza isn't a talented performer. I saw him in the title role of "Fiorello!" in the Reprise production out here, and he was pretty darn good. But, a short, slender Italian playing a fat Jew? I'll have to be convinced.
Frankly, I'm expecting to hear any day now that Carol Channing will be taking over the part of Leo Bloom.
SHUT IN THEATER: Weekend Reading 178
1 hour ago