Possible 'Producers' reunion talk of the Great White Way

— Will Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick return to "The Producers" early next year?

Broadway buzzed Wednesday with the tantalizing prospect that the original stars of what was once New York's hottest musical would come back to the Mel Brooks extravaganza in January, in an effort to boost the show's sagging box-office fortunes.

"We are in discussions with Nathan and Matthew about returning to the show," John Barlow, a spokesman for the musical, said. He added that nothing has been confirmed including when the two actors would start and how long they would stay in the musical.

The New York Post reported Wednesday the duo would rejoin the show in January.

Lane is committed to star in a revival at Boston's Huntington Theatre of "Butley," Simon Gray's play about a literary professor at loose ends. "Butley," according to the Huntington's Web site and its promotional material, is scheduled to play there from Jan. 2 through Feb. 1, 2004.

Yet Nicholas Martin, Huntington's artistic director, reached Wednesday in Boston, said, "I can't say anymore than that he (Lane) will do 'Butley' here." Martin declined to reveal the production's exact dates. A decision is expected by next week, Huntington spokeswoman Dina Croce said.

"The Producers," which opened in April 2001, was Broadway's biggest hit in years. When Lane and Broderick left a year later, business suffered. Lane's first replacement, Henry Goodman, was fired and quickly replaced by Lane's understudy, Brad Oscar.

Lewis J. Stadlen currently stars in Lane's role as the wily producer Max Bialystock, while Broderick's role as the nebbish accountant, Leopold Bloom, is currently being played by Don Stephenson. Last week, the musical grossed $925,759, playing to nearly 85 percent capacity at the St. James Theatre. The show was a consistent sell out when Lane and Broderick starred.

After reports circulated about the stars' possible return, long lines formed at the St. James box office before its 10 a.m. opening. Eager ticket-seekers sipped takeout coffee and waited for the ticket windows to open. But just after 10 a.m., a woman emerged from the theater to tell people that tickets were only on sale through Dec. 28, and that nothing had been confirmed about Lane and Broderick.

"It ain't happening," one disappointed man said into his cell phone.

"Oh well, it was worth a shot," said Clare Castro, who works in a nearby building. "Now, I'll know what time to get here when they really do announce it." Castro said she had always wanted to see Lane and Broderick but lost interest in seeing "The Producers" when they left the cast.


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