“Never Give a Saga an Even Break!” Mel Brooks’ brand of offbeat, anti-culture humor was all over his movie “Blazing Saddles” in February 1974. He wrote the screenplay with Norman Steinberg and Richard Pryor. Brooks wrote the lyrics and John Morris wrote the music including the theme song of the same name. The film went on to earn the Screen Writers Guild of America (USA) award for Best Comedy Written for the Screen, with three Oscar and two BAFTA nominations. Seen by millions, it set a new standard of humor for generations. Now Brooks is bent on “Blazing” a trail to Broadway.
“Blazing” won’t be Brooks’ first Broadway musical. That claim to fame belongs to “The Producers,” which was adapted from his movie of the same name. To bring “Blazing” to the stage will be a tour-de-force; what works in a movie doesn’t always translate to the stage. The film poked fun at bigotry and racism, using bad taste to the point of being screamingly funny. The stage production will need to reflect contemporary language, clichés, and even current events without losing the flavor of the original screenplay or its audience. But given Brooks’ success with his latest effort, Young Frankenstein, we can probably trust him to deliver the goods. He even said it on the gold coin pictured in the movie poster for “Saddles”: “HI, I’M MEL. TRUST ME.”
What a blast the cast of the film must have had, and what a cast! With then-newcomer Cleavon Little, Gene Wilder, Madeleine Kahn, Slim Pickens, Count Basie as a band-leader in the middle of the desert, Dom DeLuise, Harvey Korman, and others, how could Brooks have gone wrong? Brooks himself even got into the action with three cameo performances. After adapting the book to the stage, the next biggest challenge will be to determine who, in the panoply of actors available today, can convey the immense presence and energy necessary to bring this American version of “Theatre of the Absurd” to Broadway.