'The Producers' Receives Standing Ovation in Berlin





In a documentary film a few years back, American director James Cameron described Hitler as the "greatest pop star of his time." A theater in Berlin right now is working overtime to prove this thesis.

Earlier this week, a 42-year-old former police officer and carer for the elderly was prosecuted and given a €900 ($1,213) fine for lopping the head off of a controversial Hitler wax figure on the opening day of the Berlin branch of Madame Tussauds in July. Hitler has since been recapitated, and his wax likeness is back on view in the museum on the city's Unter den Linden boulevard.

Just around the corner, though, at the Admiralspalast Theater on Friedrichstrasse, there's a new Hitler controversy. The Führer is portrayed as a campy, singing and dancing laughingstock. Mel Brooks' Broadway musical "The Producers," based on the 1969 film of the same name, has arrived in the German capital.

In Brooks' show, two producers set out to create the greatest Broadway flop of all time so that they can fleece investors and run off to Rio with the money. Against all odds, bad taste and rules of theater, though, "Springtime for Hitler," based on a crummy script written by a lunatic aging Nazi, becomes a runaway hit. The Berlin production, with its risqué promotional campaign, has already been causing quite a stir in the German capital. The Admiralspalast theater has been draped in giant red flags bedecked with black pretzels and sausages -- a satire on the swastika flag, illegal in postwar Germany.

It's an effective PR gag, but it has also sparked anew Germany's perennial debate over whether it's acceptable to laugh about Hitler. Be it the "Great Dictator" (1940), Ernst Lubitsch's "To Be or not To Be" (1942) or Swiss director Dani Levy's "My Führer" from 2007, nothing has changed in this debate...


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