Night of the 16-Stone Transvestite Hitler, or, Welcome to Mel Aviv!
February 25, 2006
The London Times' Stephen Farrell reports in on the theater beat from Israel:
In five years covering the Middle East for The Times I have witnessed scenes that stretched credulity, in a region where history more often than not gives birth to its bastard offspring - tragedy and farce - simultaneously.
* * *
In Najaf during one of the fiercest military battles of the Iraq insurgency I saw Moqtada al-Sadr's militia cackling with laughter at the hoary old 'Yes but are you a Catholic Shia or Protestant Shia' joke from Northern Ireland.
In Fallujah a terrifying kidnap descended into hysterical scenes as I watched a roomful of Baathist insurgents stand in a circle and compare bald spots, before gravely agreeing that Her Majesty's Times correspondent’s beat them all.
* * *
But nothing, nothing compared with the scene of a Nazi-saluting Israeli actor, whose own European Jewry grandfather was a personal friend of Franz Kafka - shouting 'Heil' on an Israeli theatre stage while wearing a Third Reich helmet, gravely assuring an audience of Kristallnacht survivors: 'the Fuhrer was a great dancer'.
Yes, friends, Mel Brooks' musical version of The Producers has opened onstage in Israel, featuring noted drag queen Itzik Cohen as Roger de Bris/Hitler. [Additional photos of Cohen's flouncin' fatty of a führer accompany this AP story.]
As Mr. Farrell reports in his companion story, putting on a Nazi-centric musical comedy in Israel provides hitherto unsuspected opportunities for that nice Mrs. Miriam Bobash to play dark little practical jokes on her husband Benny:
During the interval on Tuesday, Miriam Bobash, 78, a Dresden-born Holocaust survivor, said that she had not told her husband, Benny, about the content of the play beforehand.
'It’s fun,' she said with a grin. 'It actually is very good.' Mr. Bobash, 81, was altogether less enthusiastic. He said: 'It’s not a subject that we should even laugh about. If I had known, I wouldn’t have come.' His view was clearly in the minority.
'The biggest fun on earth,' said Frances Marcus, 74, who survived the Holocaust in her native Netherlands.
'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.' After a pause she added: 'And with this whole business of the [Prophet Muhammad] cartoons — isn’t this just the biggest, super-mega cartoon, this show?'
The Tel Aviv production is in Hebrew, but it is not the first non-English version of the show. That distinction, at least according to Pravda, belongs to the production that opened last month in that notorious hotbed of cavalier disrespect, Copenhagen, Denmark. A cast photo (and hotel bookings) may be had here.
[Initial tip-off to the existence of the Tel Aviv production via Tim Blair.]