Legacy Content

Jim Hill
Page 1 of 2

by Jim Hill (archives)
April 26, 2001
Jim returns from New York with a story about The Producers, which has dethroned The Lion King on Broadway, and its many Disney connections.

The King is Dead! Long Live the King!
As a new hit show -- A musical based on Mel Brooks' classic comic film, The Producers -- takes Broadway by storm, the stage version of Disney's The Lion King loses a little bit of its luster. But you might be surprised to learn how much these two wildly different production have in common.

Well, it had to happen sometime.

For three and a half years now, Disney's The Lion King has been the hottest ticket on Broadway. Folks who wanted to see this Tony Award winning smash had to wait months before seats became available (Case in point: The box office at NYC's New Amsterdam theater is currently selling tickets for Lion King performances that won't be held 'til June 2002.)

But -- sad as it is to say -- The Lion King 's reign as the undisputed ruler of the Great White Way came to a close last Thursday night. That's when another musical (which -- not so co-incidentally -- was also based on an Oscar winning motion picture) rolled into town and took the city by storm. All of New York's notoriously negative theater critics ended up writing love letters about this production, saying that it was the best thing they'd seen since ... well ... Disney's The Lion King.

So who's the star of this new Broadway mega-hit, the show that finally dethroned The Lion King? Would you believe it's the Lion King? Simba himself? Or rather the voice of the adult Simba from the original animated Lion King film, Matthew Broderick?

And who's right there beside Matthew on the stage at the St. James, getting the lion's share of the laughs? Timon. Or -- to be precise -- the voice of Timon, Tony Award winner Nathan Lane.

Yep. Simba and Timon. Together again. In the funniest show to hit Broadway in a long time: a musical version of Mel Brooks' 1968 Academy Award winner, The Producers.

Beyond the two talented gentlemen that head up the cast, you wouldn't think that The Producers and Disney's The Lion King would have all that much in common. After all, one is a family friendly stage extravaganza while the other is a raunchy, rude but still funny as hell romp that features singing and dancing Nazis as well as sex crazed little old ladies.

But take a close look at the credits for this production and you'll note Harvey & Bob Weinstein. Recognize those names? You should. Harvey & Bob are the big guys behind Walt Disney Studios' arthouse arm -- Miramax Pictures -- as well as its teen movie production house -- Dimension films.

The Weinsteins put $2 million of their own money into The Producers as a gesture of friendship (The brothers have been friendly with Brooks and his family for years now) as well as a canny business move. Should this new musical really turn out to be a huge hit (And -- given that the show currently has advance sales in excess of $17 million and that tickets are available through April 2002 -- that seems quite likely), Harvey & Bob will obviously get a significant return on their investment. More importantly, though, is that their positions as actual producers on The Producers should give the Weinsteins the inside track -- should the movie rights for this Broadway musical ever go up for sale.

Does this mean that the Walt Disney Company will ever really release -- through its Miramax or Dimension production houses -- a movie musical that features a singing and dancing Hitler? Remember, this is Hollywood we're talking about here, folks. A town where anything can happen.

And it's not like it would be unprecedented, people. Let's remember that Disney -- through its Hollywood Pictures arm -- released Evita to movie theaters back in December 1996. That film was also built around a singing and dancing version of an infamous figure: Eva Peron, who ruled Argentina with her husband Juan in the 1950s. That film was fairly controversial. Not so much for its subject matter, but because it starred pop singer Madonna.

< Prev