Why People Have Such Strong Likes/Dislikes for 'The Producers'

Everybody seems to have strong opinion on The Producers. Some think it was one of the most hysterical shows they've seen. Others think it's the most overrated show they've seen. And usually, I find that their reaction has to do with one main thing.

When you first saw it.

If you saw it during the first year, it's likely that you think relatively highly of the show. The later you first saw it, the more over-rated you'll find it to be.

I first saw it in previews, and that performance may very well be the funniest thing I will ever see in my life. The jokes were entirely new and unexpected, the spirits were high, everybody was buzzed, the whole show felt "fresh", and Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane were in top form. And, being that it was in previews, the audience was full of Mel Brooks fanatics. Which would explain why the line, "Look at this, I'm wearing a cardboard belt!" got not only a huge laugh, but a show-stopping applause.

People keep forgetting this. Days before the official opening, the reviewers were sitting in an audience packed with Mel Brooks fans. We were laughing so hard it hurt. The reviewers, of course, joined right in because laughter is infectious. And the people who bought those tickets were people like me, who had been carefully tracking every bit of the show for over two years.

Even after it opened, the infectiousness went on. Lane and Broderick's performances were still great , because the parts were tailored to them. Meanwhile, buzz was so high and the reviews were so great, people walked in expectingd to laugh so hard it hurt. And so of course, they did.

Now the second time I saw the Producers, I loved it so much I decided to take my mother and brother. Of course, the only tickets I could get were during Lane's vacation. So I did. And I saw the fantastic Brad Oscar in the role, still with Broderick. While my mother loved it, Lane's absence made the entire show feel to me like a sobered-up matinee version. I assumed that this was assurance of this being a Nathan Lane thing, always having admiring his performance more than Broderick's. When I caught it later with Weber and Goodman, my theories seemed correct.

When Lane came back with Broderick a few years ago for a return engagement, I saw it a fourth time, because I so wanted to remember what I thought the show felt like. I brought my entire family. I see too many shows, but I only take my family to the cream of that crop. And I wanted them to experience what it was like with Nathan Lane. To see the show as I remembered it.

The audience the fourth time wasn't compromised Mel Brooks fans. The people who saw it the fourth time were mostly comprised of wealthy American Express Card Holders.

It had Lane, it had Broderick. And it was nothing like my first time. Because while Lane and Broderick mattered, the audience mattered more. With Lane and the Mel Brooks Fantatics-audience, you're laughing so hard that you can't see the flaws. Take them away, and the flaws become clear. Cinematic problems aside, this is the reason why the musical movie never seemed to hold a candle.

I'm very interested in seeing Young Frankenstein. But I've learned my lesson. Just as I did with Spamalot, I'm buying my ticket for the last week of previews. Sure I may like to rip shows apart, but if I buy it during the last week of previews I'm assured to still have a good time.


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