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"BU On Broadway" Puts on Controversial Musical

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It's a rare event to see a stage full of people in Nazi uniforms who heil Hitler several times within an hour. It's especially rare on a Bostonian college campus.

Thankfully, it wasn't a rally. It was BU On Broadway's fall semester production of Mel Brooks' The Producers at the Tsai Performance Center on Commonwealth Ave.

Still, an occasional gasp could be heard as characters sported swastikas or sang such gems as, "Don't be stupid, be a smarty / Come and join the Nazi party!"

Even a few adults shook their heads as a line of Boston University girls marched and danced to "Springtime for Hitler." But those gasps and head-shakings were always accompanied by big laughs.

The material of the show seemed a bit risky and risqué for a college musical theatre company who put on Seussical The Musical spring 2010 and A Disney Showcase last fall. The story surrounds a money-making scheme between a "lying, cheating, dishonest" Jewish producer named Max Bialystock (School of Management freshman Dylan Kaplan) and Leopold Bloom (College of General Studies sophomore Austin Pohlen), his hysterical -- in both senses -- accountant.

If the show didn't sound potentially offensive to the second largest Jewish population of any private university, the producers in The Producers produce a show called Springtime for Hitler. The musical within the musical is written by a Nazi named Franz Liebkind (College of Arts & Sciences senior Alec Nicholson) and directed by Roger DeBris (School of Hospitality senior Michael Butvinik), arguably one of the most flamboyantly gay characters to grace both the stage and the screen.

Although The College of Fine Arts, College of Communication Student Services, and the Dean of Students received "Special Thanks," the BU On Broadway Executive Board (as well as cast and crew) is made up entirely of the University's students from its variety of schools and colleges. And while showtunes like "Keep it Gay" and songs of the Third Reich might not push any of BU's boundaries, perhaps the way The Producers' producers fund their Hitler-worshipping spectacle will; countless "Little Old Ladies" pay Bialystock for sex.

One of those elderly women, named "Kiss-Me Feel-Me," is played by junior in the College of Arts & Sciences Desiree Okoh. And though she admits she "did see some horrified faces," she claims that "there was actually very little talk of how much we might offend people. I think the idea is that it's a well known show, and most people know what they're getting into."

BU On Broadway Membership Photographer Amanda Friedman, a junior in the College of Communication, worked with her fellow Terriers under that same assumption.

"Going into a Mel Brooks musical, the audience and the actors know what kind of material to expect -- satire," says Friedman in reference to the 85-year-old franchise creator. "The Producers was only received with high praises. Going into the show, there were no worries about backlash or negative press. I think audiences have evolved with the taste of current trends."

Friedman cites the The Book of Mormon as the biggest hit on Broadway today as well as the Director's Note from The Producers program with which director and College of Arts and Sciences junior Kat Pernicone opens, "Boston University could use a laugh. We take ourselves too seriously."

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