Although the Nazi send-up, which has taken in more €730 million worldwide, has been staged in translation in Hitler’s birthplace Austria, as well as in Tel Aviv, backers hesitated to take it to Germany.
And even before the cast arrived in Berlin from Vienna, promotional banners resembling Nazi red-white-and-black flags on the theatre facade prompted angry calls to the police – even though the illegal swastikas had been replaced with pretzels.
According to reviews of the musical’s debut however, the answer to the question posed widely in the German press – “Can Berlin laugh at Hitler?” – was answered with a resounding “yes.”
“If you do not like jokes about Nazis, sex, old women, gays, blonds, performing artists and their audience, then you had better stay at home,” said reviewer Rafael Seligmann, writing in the Berlin tabloid BZ.
“But if you love in-your-face, irreverent slapstick, then you should see The Producers,” he said, adding that the premiere had played to enthusiastic crowds.
“A gay Adolf Hitler who sings and dances. A laughable figure. And what did Berliners do? They laughed at him! Finally,” he added.
Another reviewer – Christoph Stoelzl writing in the Berlin Morgenpost – said: “The enormous applause when the first preview ended, as well as the continuous shrieks and squeals and laughs during the scenes, suggest that people will be streaming to Berlin’s Admiralspalast.”
“What could be funnier than a gay Hitler?” asked Eleonore Buening in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
The plot of the musical revolves around two Jewish con artists on Broadway who figure that with a scam, they can make more money staging a flop show than a hit so they set out to develop the worst play of all time.
But the result, “Springtime for Hitler: A Gay Romp With Eva and Adolf at Berchtesgaden,” is taken for a brilliant satire by the New York theatre crowd.
During the show, a camp Hitler sings “Heil Myself,” iron crosses dangle from dancing girls’ bustiers and the leg-swinging chorus line are clad as stormtroopers – hence the concern about Germans’ reactions.
Summing up the anxieties, Seligmann asks: “Can we really do that? Laugh about Hitler?”
He answers himself: “Not only should we laugh about Hitler. We must laugh about him. Especially in Berlin.”