Almost 40 years after its original theatrical release, The Producers has returned to its roots on the big screen. Shot in NYC over a period of 60 days, the new movie musical sticks closely to the original formula with its elaborate costumes and production numbers. It also stars original Broadway headliners Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane, and is choreographed and directed by Susan Stroman.
Stroman’s goal in translating her original Broadway choreography to film was “to maintain the comic elements of the numbers while presenting them in a way that was rich and grand,” she says. The film’s 300 dancers were pleased with her approach. “When you work in a setting where the director is also the choreographer, it’s amazing because a lot of directors don’t understand how dancing can portray and move along the storyline,” says dancer Joey Dowling. Dancer Sean van der Wilt shares Dowling’s admiration of Stroman’s approach to the jazz and tap choreography. “Susan was very particular in what she wanted, so we would do certain scenes over and over,” he says.
As a dancer in the Springtime for Hitler production number, van der Wilt worked hard to nail the precise, stiff movements of the Nazi storm trooper he portrayed. “I have a thrash funk style, so it was a challenge to pick up [this] style of character dancing,” he says.
The dancers’ efforts didn’t go unnoticed by Stroman. “The dancers are the backbone of any musical, and they make or break my musicals,” says Stroman, who was the chief honoree at this year’s Elan Awards in October.
As one of the holiday season’s most anticipated releases, the movie is almost assured bountiful box-office returns, but more than that, Dowling hopes the film will continue to create artistic opportunities for actors and dancers. “It’s great to see that Hollywood is getting a greater respect for films that feature song and dance,” she says.