THE opening scene of THE PRODUCERS takes place in an alley outside the Shubert Theatre in New York as Max Bialystock, a down-on-his-luck producer, bewails the failure of his latest Broadway play, a musical version of "Hamlet" entitled "Funny Boy." Max is devestated this latest in a string of failures, but he refuses to quit. Angrily, he reminds those who will listen that he was once "The King of Broadway" and will be again!
A few days later, Max hires an accountant, Leo Bloom, to balance his books. When the nerdy accountant casually mentions that a producer could actually make more money with a flop than with a hit, Max is all ears. Leo goes on to explain, "You could raise a million dollars, put on a hundred-thousand dollar failure, and keep the rest for yourself." Recognizing the genius of Leo's innocent statement, Max immediately urges the accountant to join him in this profitable--although highly illegal--scheme. Eventually, Leo agrees, and the two men go into business as "Bialystock & Bloom, Theatrical Producers."
Max and Leo then set out to find the worst play ever written, a script so bad that it is guaranteed to close in one night. They soon zero in on "Springtime for Hitler, A Gay Romp with Adolf and Eva at Berchtesgaden," a play written by nutty neo-Nazi named Franz Liebkind. Franz is delighted that Max and Leo want to produce his play, and after leading them in a rousing rendition of Hitler's favorite tune, "Der Guten Tag Hop-Clop," Franz gladly signs the contract they have offered him. Next, the producers set out to find a director as bad as the script, finally settling on Roger de Bris, commonly considered Broadway's worst director. After some prodding, Roger agrees to direct "Springtime for Hitler," and Max and Leo return triumphantly to the office where they begin the process of raising the capital of the project (two million dollars!) by seducing little old ladies.
Soon it is opening night. Max and Leo can hardly contain their excitement--they are prepared to close the show and sneak off with the money. But fate has a surprise in store for them. Amazingly, "Springtime for Hitler" is an unparalleled success! The critics love it, calling it "a satirical masterpiece," "a surprise smash it," and "the best musical of the decade." Stunned and bewildered, Max and Leo stumble back to their office to regroup. Max is soon arrested, and Leo runs off to Rio with the two million dollars and his beautiful blonde assistant Ulla. He returns, however, to share in Max's fate when he realizes the importance of Max's friendship. Together again, the two men are sentenced to five years in Sing Sing.
At Sing Sing, Max and Leo put on an all-convict musical entitled "Prisoners of Love." This play, too, is a surprising success, and the governor soon grants Max and Leo a full pardon for bringing "joy and laughter into the hearts of every murderer, rapist, and sex maniac in Sing Sing." Free once more, Max and Leo take "Prisoners of Love" to Broadway where it is successfully reprised with a cast that features Roger de Bris and a chorus of gorgeous, scantily clad girl convicts. The two producers have fulfilled their dreams. Together, they are "The Kings of Broadway."