From The Washingtonian:
Olney Theatre’s production of Mel Brooks’s 2001 musical The Producers only has three more performances, but it’s not going to close without a bit of manufactured controversy. Audience members at Montgomery County playhouse are going to have to walk past a small coterie protesting the show’s play-within-the-play, because, the demonstrators say, it makes light of Adolf Hitler and the atrocities committed by Nazi Germany.
“I understand the intent is satire,” says Jeffrey Imm, who is organizing the demonstration through his anti-discrimination group, Responsible for Equality And Liberty. “This is the point of morality: some things we have to recognize as absolute evil. When 6 million people are murdered, we don’t view it with knee-slapping, we view it with reverence.”
In The Producers, which is adapted from Brooks’s Oscar-winning 1968 film of the same name, two crooked Broadway producers endeavor to profit off a critical and commercial flop, which they believe they find in Springtime for Hitler: A Gay Romp Adolf and Eva at Berchtesgaden, which portrays Hitler as a flamboyant dandy.
Even though the jokes in The Producers come at the expense of show-business types and Nazis, Imm is not impressed by its humor, or the original Broadway run’s record 12 Tony Awards. Contemporary audiences, he argues, are no longer frightened by genocide…
“The problem is how people have gotten about Hitler,” Imm tells Washingtonian. “They’ve forgotten how horrible it is. They let the years go by with Hogan’s Heroes and all that. They’re not horrified by that.”
At least one actor in Olney’s Producers says Imm is missing the point. In a column for the Jewish magazine Tablet, Brandon Ambrosino, a member of the show’s ensemble, writes: “Brooks wasn’t trying to whitewash Hitler, and he certainly wasn’t trying to glorify him. As Brooks has often explained, he saw it as his goal to mock Hitler.”
What did Brooks say about this when the musical first opened on Broadway? He told Mike Wallace on “60 Minutes”:
“I was in the Army. ‘Jewboy! Out of my way, out of my face, Jewboy,'” he recalls soldiers saying to him. Brooks, who served in World War II de-activating land mines, spent a short time in the stockade for getting even with one heckler. “I took his helmet off. I said, ‘I don’t want to hurt your helmet ’cause it’s G.I. issue.’ And I smashed him in the head with my mess kit,” he says.
One anti-Semite Brooks has been trying to get even with for most of his adult life is Adolf Hitler, whom he lampoons first in his movie and now on the stage. “Hitler was part of this incredible idea that you could put Jews in concentration camps and kill them…How do you get even with the man? How do you get even with him?” he asks Wallace.
“You have to bring him down with ridicule, because if you stand on a soapbox and you match him with rhetoric, you’re just as bad as he is, but if you can make people laugh at him, then you’re one up on him,” he tells Wallace. “It’s been one of my lifelong jobs – to make the world laugh at Adolf Hitler,” says Brooks.
We all need a laugh, so here’s a little Hitler from the movie version of the Broadway show. Go ahead. Laugh. Please.