Months ago, I stumbled on a YouTube video titled, “Springtime for Hitler.” I was intrigued. As I watched this song and dance, the entire time I kept wondering, “Who could possibly have made this? Why would anyone make this?” It was so outlandish and offensive – but hilarious. I couldn’t stop watching, especially when I realized it was a play within a play – and a satire.
I went down the YouTube rabbit hole and watched two more videos from the Mel Brooks’ directed musical, “The Producers.”
“Springtime for Hitler” is a fictional play within the play, “The Producers.” In this comedy, two Broadway producers realize they can make more money on a flop than a hit, so they set out to produce the worst play of all time. They select the most offensive play they can find, which happens to be “Springtime for Hitler.” They hire the worst director they can, and they move forward with their diabolical plan – only to their surprise – their play is a success!
I love irreverent comedy and clever satire – which is exactly what “The Producers” is. As soon as I heard the Cottage Theater was putting it on, I knew I wanted to attend and review it.
Because I had seen several clips from the films, I wondered how far Cottage Theatre was willing to push the boundary of comfort. This play has something in it that can offend anyone, and that can be dangerous in today’s cancel culture, which made me wonder how true to the original the Cottage Theatre version would be.
Aside from having less risqué – and more family-friendly costumes – the local production still kept many of the irreverent and subversive details of the original. It was everything I had hoped for.
The theater is quite aware of how offensive the play could be to some individuals. In the program, it warns viewers that the play treats subjects of “suicide, gun violence, Adolf Hitler, Nazism, LGBTQA+, sexuality – quite flippantly.”
According to Susan Goes, the executive director, “The show is rife with ridiculous gags, and our cast is having a terrific time bringing these humorous moments to life on our stage.”
Audience members on opening night were savvy enthusiasts of the theatre, not scared away by edgy material. Attendee and local resident Fran Rothauge, of Cottage Grove said, “You just enjoy the play, and know it’s not the view of the theatre or the actors.”
Rothauge also added that years ago her husband purchased season tickets for her as a gift – and now she won’t let him stop buying her season tickets. She adores attending the theatre. “We love to come to opening night. These are people you get to know season after season.”
Another audience member, Alayna Pearson, who is originally from Cottage Grove, said, “I knew nothing about the play until I walked in, but I am loving it so much.”
Pearson grew up acting and involved in theatre – specifically this theatre. She knows many of the people involved in the shows, and it feels like she is returning to family when coming to Cottage Theatre. Not just figurative family: Her parents are in the upcoming production of “Elf the Musical.”
What made Pearson decide to attend this play? She explains, “I came because Kory said this was his dream role.” She is referencing Kory Weimer, the actor who plays Leo Bloom, one of the fictional producers in the play.
Audience members are loyal to Cottage Theatre, returning for the familiarity of this community and to see the actors they’ve enjoyed in other plays. For newcomers, a bold play like this that is produced so well is the draw. The humor, music, and costumes make this a must-see play.
Anyone who has ever felt unhappy in their job will be able to relate to the “Unhappy” song. Carmen Ghia played by Brendan Francis and Roger Debris played by Chris McVein will have you squealing with laughter. And the costumes – wow!
Kali McDonald and Linda Turnquist are the costume designers for the play. McDonald describes the costumes from the movie as loosely set in the late 1950s, with the stage performance following a similar style. When asked what kind of outlandish costumes she came up with for the show, she said, “We don’t want to spoil any surprises for the audience, but it has been a fun challenge to create the feature pieces for ‘Springtime for Hitler.’”
The cast is accompanied by a live band to create the feel of a Broadway production. The show runs from Oct. 6-29 at Cottage Theatre. If you love irreverent satire, this is your cup of tea.
Sarina Dorie is a writer, dancer, and artist. She is the arts columnist for The Chronicle.