'Producers' actor gets hook after only four weeks

Nathan Lane's replacement 'was creepy,' fan says

— Bye Bye Bialystock.

Henry Goodman, who took over last month from Nathan Lane as the rapscallion Max Bialystock in "The Producers," has been let go from the Broadway musical hit after playing the role for only four weeks.

The show's more than a dozen producers, including author Mel Brooks, were mum Monday about Goodman's dismissal, leaving it to Susan Stroman, the musical's director-choreographer, to comment on the firing.

"I have the utmost respect for Henry Goodman," Stroman said. "He is a wonderful actor and I would happily work with him again on another project. Henry has been well received nightly by audiences, but the producers have decided to pursue a different quality for the role."

Goodman was given notice after the Sunday matinee. The English actor will be replaced Tuesday by Lane's understudy, Brad Oscar, who portrays Nazi playwright Franz Liebkind in the show. Goodman joined the musical March 19 along with Steven Weber, who followed Lane's co-star, Matthew Broderick. Weber, who plays Leo Bloom, will remain in the production.

"The Producers" is based on Brooks' 1968 movie about a pair of con artists who overfinance a Broadway musical in the hopes of producing a flop. Of course, the show is a hit � just as big a smash as the stage version of "The Producers," which has been a steady sellout since opening last April at the St. James Theatre.

Although "The Producers" continues to play to capacity business (it grosses over $1.1 million each week), the musical is not quite the hot ticket it was while Lane and Broderick were in the show. The line for cancellations has noticeably shortened since its original stars left, and the demand for $480 premium seats has slackened.

Goodman, who starred in London revivals of "Guys and Dolls" and "Chicago," could not be reached for comment Monday. He was acclaimed for his portrayal of Shylock in a National Theatre production of "The Merchant of Venice," recently seen on PBS. The actor's only other Broadway appearance was in the replacement cast of "Art," the Yasmina Reza comedy.

Oscar frequently subbed for Lane while the star was recovering from vocal problems during his yearlong run in the show.

Goodman's performance was darker, more serious than Lane's, according to theatergoers who saw him.

"Henry may have been more than they bargained for," said Alice Carey, a fan of the actor who attended Goodman's first performance last month. "He was creepy in a way Zero Mostel (the star of the movie) was creepy. He made the show more dangerous."

High-profile departures from big musicals are infrequent, but not unknown. Two years ago, David Shiner took a vacation from "Seussical" so Rosie O'Donnell could step into the role of the Cat in the Hat. Shiner eventually came back, but later left and was replaced by gymnast Cathy Rigby.


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