The Producers; Bringing Glam and Glitz to War
If Theatre and war were put in a museum display together, what artifact would be there to represent them? One artifact that comes to mind would be the hit musical The Producers. The Producers is a musical by Mel Brooks about a hit Broadway producer who has hit the bottom of his career producing one flop after another. To make a long story short, he ropes in an accountant to being business partners with him after discovering that they could make more money producing a flop than they could a Broadway hit. They pick the worse play possible written by a Nazi who glamorizes World War II and puts it on stage. The play became a hit and the two are caught red handed by the IRS for embezzling money. But don’t worry; they have a very happy ending for it is a comedy after all. Using the musical The Producers, I am going to show how theatre has supported war propaganda as well as how Theatre has downplayed the seriousness of war. The showing of how glamorous war can be, promoting different perspectives on war, and the content in which war has been publicized, has done this.
War propaganda is all about the glory, honor, and glam that come with war. In retrospect it can be a lot like show biz. World War II was well known for displaying war propaganda to keep people excited about joining the war, to push people away from the destructions of war, and to keep people supporting the victory of their country. Propaganda reached people in many ways through radio media, comic books, posters, and last but not least, theatrical performances. Within The Producers lies a scene/ musical number titled “Spring Time for Hitler.” The musical number is all about how one should join the Nazi party, how wonderful the Nazi parties were, and how glamorous but humble Adolf Hitler was. This is obviously not what Americans would consider motivating war propaganda, yet this is not far from what Nazi Germany was viewing. As the character of Hitler enters the stage, the musical number quotes
Heil myself, heil to me. I’m the kraut who’s out to change our history. Heil myself, raise your hand. There’s no greater dictator in the land. Everything I do, I do for you. (Yes you do!) If you’re looking for a war, here’s World War Two. Heil myself. Raise your Beer. (Jawoh!) Every hotzy-totzy Nazi stand and cheer!
Aside from this part in the musical number, there is a part where the Hitler character sits at the edge of the stage and sings about how once just an ordinary man, he rose to greatness by getting lucky and serving his country faithfully. At this he was awarded the title Fuhrer. This musical number has a high end-glitzy show of lights, outstanding tap choreography, up beat and catchy music, showgirls, and parades of Nazi symbols filling the entire stage. Other lines such as “Don’t’ be a dummy, be a smarty. Come and join the Nazi Party.” Come in and out through the song. Introduced in the number is a nameless male character with blonde hair and blue eyes that are known to be the ideal look for a male by standards of the Nazi party. The fact that this role is usually casted to be an extremely handsome blonde and blue-eyed man only plays up the glamour of war. These examples within the play display a flashy and stylized show of what war can be. Handsome and strong men, beautiful show girls, excitement, lights, and a catchy/ high-energy song all bring unrealistic ideals of what war can be to those involved in it. This theatrical musical has shown that anything can look fabulous under lights and flashy scenery. But this is what excited people about the war and drew them away from the devastations that were brought by war. Shows like these gave excitement and hope towards victory. Though this is propaganda towards a specific group, and could be found offensive towards another, this is what war was about. One couldn’t win without the support from those in their country. What better way to win support than to convince one through a theatrical performance that war is not a terrible thing, but just another aspect of show business?
Theatre can be an outlet for displaying different perspectives on war propaganda to which supports them. As mentioned earlier, “Spring Time for Hitler” isn’t necessarily a song that promotes the American’s point of view on Hitler. Well to be correct, the song isn’t what most countries involved in World War II would call supportive towards their causes. The Producers is definitely a show that is not afraid to show how the Nazis felt about their actions. In the musical, the first objective of the play “Spring Time for Hitler” was not necessarily to please the crowd. The character’s objective’s for bringing the show to the stage was to offend others, produce a flop, and escape with the money. But with that objective aside, many people outside the characters of the play could still find the subject of the Nazi party an offensive subject to glorify and display in such a public setting. Theatre often crosses the boundaries of what is considered politically correct and bringing it to the publics view. Theatre is about telling stories and sometimes that involves reliving a part of history that many try to forget or consider taboo. Though there lies certain vulnerability and greater understandings when one is subjected to see the point of view of another side, especially when it comes to war. Theatre is all about exploring the different side of things to which The Producers accomplishes without fault. Though the songs and Nazi symbolism used throughout the show are considered taboo to many, they are the perfect propaganda for those who supported the German Nazis.
Though propaganda has it’s pro’s, it can just as well have it’s cons. Propaganda can downplay the seriousness of war. The Producers hold’s yet another example of how theatre can display another truth behind this subject. All though the musical supports the efforts of maintaining diplomatic support and the support of viewing different sides of war, it is these aspects that can lead into taking war in a more casual and even laughable approach. It is true, when in war, or dealing with such a sensitive subject such as a past war as World War II, that an escape from the harsh reality of it all can seem more than welcoming. Yet war and the devastation it brings to the people and countries involved within it is still a serious matter. In World War II, many people lost their families, homes, and even their lives. The Nazis did some serious damage during their invasions. Persecution based on race and religion became a real fear to many people who in turn had to go into hiding in attempt to try to save themselves. The Producers makes light of the invasions and destructions brought by the war. The sound effects of bombs falling through the air, the obscene costumes in which the showgirls wear displaying pretzels, sausages, war tanks, and spinning swastikas, and not to mention the choreography of a spinning march in the shape of a swastika may play up the glam and glitz of the Nazi party, but when accompanied with such an upbeat and catchy tune with such specific lyrics targeting the Nazis as heroes can really down play the consequences of Hitler’s dictator ship and lives lost under his power. People had to confide to extreme acts of socialism where their freedom was slowly stripped from them after the promises met by Hitler were slowly realized to be an act to get voted into the countries he ruined. Propaganda may support the efforts in war, but they can be a distraction or even a mask to the true destructions that come to follow. With The Producers as an example, Theatre has shown the truth of how war propaganda can mask the real truth behind war.
In conclusion, the flashy display of theatricality, the appearance of different views of war, and downplay towards the seriousness of war, are all viewed as aspects of war propaganda to which theatre has both exposed and submitted too. The three separate points tie into each other simultaneously while serving their individual purposes. Through the hit musical, The Producers theatre has made an attempt to bring these facts and issues forward to the public eye. Theatre and war have tied together in the subject of war propaganda and in many ways in on display for the rest of the world to view.
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