Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick are the stars of "The Producers," but it's Gary Beach who is responsible for what may be the most outlandish comedic moment in the movie musical, which opens Friday.
With a hairstyle that resembles Judy Garland's in the "Born in a Trunk" number in "A Star Is Born," a grin that would make Carol Channing envious and a voice the size of Ethel Merman's, Beach makes 'em laugh performing "Springtime for Hitler" as a campy Adolf Hitler.
"It looks like an old number out of the 1950s with Lana Turner singing," says Beach, 58. "Except that it's Adolf Hitler sitting on the edge of the stage."
Beach, Lane, Broderick and Roger Bart ("Desperate Housewives") all originated their roles in the Tony Award-winning Broadway production of "The Producers" four years ago -- with Beach and Lane also picking up Tonys for their performances -- and all four are back for the big-screen version.
"The Producers" stars Lane as failed theatrical producer Max Bialystock, and Broderick plays his mousy accountant, Leo Bloom. They hatch a harebrained scheme to make $2 million -- all they have to do is produce a sure-fire Broadway flop.
But their dream of riches turn into a prison sentence when Roger De Bris (Beach), considered the worst director in New York, takes over the title role on opening night and transforms "Springtime for Hitler" into a boffo hit.
Susan Stroman, who directed the play, makes her feature film directorial debut. Beach and Bart, who plays De Bris' "common-law assistant," had several conversations before production began as to whether they should tone down their over-the-top performances for the film.
"We [realized] that this is 'The Producers,' " Beach says. "It's Mel Brooks, and to try to bring it into a 'real' reality would kill the comedy."
The veteran song-and-dance man says playing De Bris both on stage and in the film has been the most fun he's had in his 30-year-plus career. "When I think back to four years ago [when the show opened], it was so magical," recalls Beach, who recently returned to the Broadway production of "The Producers."
"I felt I was lucky enough to be a member of the most exclusive comedy club in New York to get to go to the theater every night because the audience came to party."
And he hopes audiences feel the same way about the movie.
-- Susan King