NEW YORK, Dec. 6 (UPI) -- Personal tragedy, as well as comic and musical sensibility, connected Mel Brooks and Susan Stroman as they created "The Producers" musical.
Stroman's husband, stage and film director Mike Ockrent, died of leukemia in 1999, right around the time Stroman teamed up with Brooks to turn his 1968 non-musical movie into a Broadway show.
Brooks' beloved wife, actress Anne Bancroft, died of cancer last summer, during the production of a new film version of the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical.
"I know everything he is going through," Stroman, the director and choreographer of both the stage and screen musicals, told UPI. "I speak to him almost every day. He is grieving and it is hard for him to be out in crowds. He misses her so. They were inseparable. We are very close and it is strange that this kind of thing would happen. The material of 'The Producers' is like a life raft. It was for me when I started with it and now it is for him."
Stroman said she and Brooks are now working on a musical version of his classic comedy film, "Young Frankenstein."