A longtime friend introduced me to this major Broadway and film talent a few years ago when I was invited to the opening night of Chita Rivera's one-woman Broadway show. Yes, I'm dropping names, but it'll give you a sense of this Broadway/film talent's history.
You may not know his name. You may not know his face. But, believe me, millions of you know and love his work. You've seen it in movies directed or produced by Mel Brooks. If you saw Gene Wilder as Young Frankenstein, you've seen his work.
You may not know the name Alan Johnson, but he's been a major contributor to some of the best sections of classic and Oscar-winning Mel Brooks comedies. Alan Johnson choreographed the "Puttin' on the Ritz" number in Young Frankenstein.
Alan Johnson choreographed Madeline Kahn's "I'm Tired" number in Blazing Saddles.
He also choreographed the brilliantly tasteless "Springtime for Hitler" number in The Producers, the comedy that brought Mel Brooks the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay of 1968.
My friend, Mark Hummel, was musical director for Chita Rivera's one-woman Broadway show. For the opening night, I was at an after-party table with Harvey Evans, a longtime friend of Chita's. They were in the original Broadway production of West Side Story. Harvey repeated his role as one of the Jets in the acclaimed film version, Oscar winner for Best Picture of 1961, and he was a dapper Central Park senior citizen who danced behind Amy Adams in the musical comedy, Enchanted (2007). Harvey is in the big "That's How You Know" number. That original Enchanted tune was an Oscar nominee for Best Song. My friend Mark, Chita Rivera and Harvey Evans are three of the friendliest, coolest, most talented and most gracious theater people I've ever had the privilege and good fortune to meet. Add Alan Johnson to that list. He was at our table too. Mark introduced me. Here's Alan is on the right in a photo with a fan.
In the remake, Mel plays the ham actor who has to pull a fast one on a somewhat gullible Nazi, played by Charles Durning.
You can see Alan in that scene. Right before the big soundstage fight with the bully cowboys breaks out, he's the chorus dancer who shouts "They've hit Buddy! Come on, girls!"
There you have it -- information about Mel Brooks' big Johnson. Alan Johnson. He gave millions of us lots of movie laughs since 1968. And we usually didn't see his face.
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