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Danza to star in LV show

Tony Danza will take over the lead role of Max Bialystock in the Paris Las Vegas version of “The Producers” in August, the actor said Monday.

Casino officials plan a formal announcement when Danza visits on Wednesday.

The move had been predicted since Danza closed down the Broadway company of the Mel Brooks musical in April, and David Hasselhoff’s May 7 departure from the Strip left the Las Vegas version without a marquee star.

“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, replacing Brad Oscar as the down-on-his-luck theatrical producer who cooks up a scheme to bilk investors. Hasselhoff played a different, supporting role in the production.

“My take is, I think Max is a likable guy,” Danza said by telephone from his home in Los Angeles. “Sure he’s up to no good. But it’s almost like he can’t help himself.”

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

Danza has performed in Las Vegas with a nightclub-style variety act that he debuted in 1996. In recent years, he has performed to capacity audiences at the Suncoast and The Orleans.

“I think for Vegas, you need a show that has a lot of laughs and a lot of legs,” said Brooks, 80, who wrote the play based on his 1968 movie about the scheme to over-finance a Broadway musical, in the hopes of producing a flop and making off with the money.

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

Danza, 56, said he played 100 straight shows as Max in the New York version of the show, which opened in 2001 and ended April 22 after 2,502 performances.

Danza called the first 30 minutes 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. 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.”

Brooks said he understood the casting change. “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,” he 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.”

Review-Journal writer Mike Weatherford contributed to this report.

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