Danza set to take 'Producers' role again


LAS VEGAS -- Tony Danza will reprise his lead role as Max Bialystock in the Las Vegas version of Mel Brooks' hit Broadway show "The Producers," he said Monday.

"I love the part," said Danza, a former star of TV's "Taxi" and "Who's the Boss," who signed to take over Aug. 13 as the down-on-his-luck theatrical producer who hatches a wildly successful play despite his best attempts to fail.

"My take is, I think Max is a likable guy," Danza said. "Sure, he's up to no good. But it's almost like he can't help himself."

Entertainment legend Mel Brooks, who wrote the play based on his 1968 movie about a pair of con artists who overfinance a Broadway musical in the hopes of producing a flop and making off with the money, called Danza perfect for the show.

"I think for Vegas, you need a show that has a lot of laughs and a lot of legs," said Brooks, one of few people to have won Oscar, Emmy, Grammy and Tony awards for his work in film, television, recording and stage.

"Tony brings the laughs, a certain charm and an inescapable charisma," Brooks said. "He's irresistible. Everybody likes Tony Danza."

Danza said he played 100 consecutive shows as Max in the New York version of the show, which opened in 2001 with Nathan Lane as Max and ended April 22 after 2,502 performances. Danza called the first 30 minutes of the show a "sprint" for Max, who sings several numbers, including "The King of Broadway" and "We Can Do It."

The Las Vegas version, pared to 90 minutes, has been playing since Jan. 31 at the Paris Las Vegas hotel-casino, starring Brad Oscar as Max. Actor David Hasselhoff on May 7 turned over the role of Roger DeBris, the outrageous gay director who wears a dress and gets to tap dance as Adolf Hitler, to Lee Roy Reams.

Danza promised "to do things a little different."

"I'm going to go there and try to make waves," he said. "I will try to make every minute of those 90 minutes count."

Danza's 18-week engagement is for 126 shows, ending the week before Christmas. Terms of his contract were not made public.

Brooks said he understood the casting change to Danza.

"I think the producers of the show, the management, always wanted to refresh the show from time to time with a name like David Hasselhoff or Tony Danza," Brooks said.

"As far as performing, it's hard to beat Brad Oscar. But as far as a name, Tony Danza will be a terrific draw."