In a surprising move, the Hebrew version of the stage musical, The Producers has taken Israel by storm with a gay Hitler.
The Mel Brooks musical centres on the efforts of a theatrical producer’s attempts to stage a sure-fire flop, Springtime for Hitler.
The Israeli version of the show has be translated into Hebrew complete with Nazi salutes. However, swastikas are in less abundance than the Broadway and London versions of the musical.
The most prominent alteration sees the Jewish characters Bialystock and Bloom spit and stamp the ground whenever the name of Hitler is mentioned. The spit and stamp is a reference to the ancient Jewish curse: “yimakah shmo”, meaning “may his name be erased.”
The role of Hitler has been taken on by the prominent gay Israeli actor, Itzik Cohen, best known for his roles as drag queens. He plays a grossly obese, camp version of the 20th century tyrant.
“If ever there was a place that has full licence to make fun of Hitler, it is probably here,” said Micah Levensohn, the musical’s director. “We don’t shy away from the images. If you look at Israeli television every night, there are swastikas and Nazi footage on one programme or another. It’s not as if seeing a swastika is a shock for Israelis. The main objective is to make people laugh.”
“I was a little bit worried before we put the show on stage,” Noam Semel, the manager of the Cameri theatre where the show has sold out until the end of May. “I didn’t know what the response would be. We discussed it many, many times.
“Most of the people here are second or third-generation Holocaust survivors and, of course, we know that half the audience are, too. But, in my opinion, Israeli audiences are much more mature than audiences in America.”
Frances Marcus a 74 year old Holocaust survivor told the Times, that the show was: “the biggest fun on earth You couldn’t have put this on twenty or even ten years ago. And now to see this Hitler dancing and not feel offended. Attitudes to Germany have changed totally.
“Both sides have grown up. And with this whole business of the [Prophet Muhammad] cartoons -isn’t this just the biggest, super-mega cartoon, this show?”