ORANGETOWN, N.Y. (CBSNewYork)– A high school version of “The Producers” will be missing something in its performance Friday evening. The swastikas have been cut from the satirical musical about Adolf Hitler.
If someone scrawled a swastika on a desk at Tappan Zee High School, it would be treated as a potential hate crime. That helps explain why the stage will be devoid of swastikas when high schoolers present the Mel Brooks’ musical this weekend.
“There is no context in a public high school where a swastika is appropriate,” South Orangetown Superintendent Bob Pritchard told CBS2’s Tony Aiello.
The controversy erupted on social media after someone posted a picture of swastikas on the stage on their Facebook page.
A 2009 video from Ardlsey High School may give you an idea of what was planned, swastikas on Nazi flags and armbands during “Springtime For Hitler,” the satirical “show-within-a-show” that ridicules the German madman.
A handful of Tappan Zee parents found the symbol offensive, and complained. After checking out the stage, the superintendent agreed.
“The optic, the visual, to me was very disturbing. I considered it to be an obscenity like any obscenity,” Pritchard said.
Pritchard said some of the performers seen at a recent rehearsal feel the production has been unfairly censored.
“It’s satire, not supposed to be taken seriously,” Tyler Lowe, a high school performer, told CBS2. He said as a young Jew, he’s not offended by the swastikas in the show.
“I personally think Mel Brooks would be honored that the controversy is going on, but I think he would be disappointed by the censorship,” Orangetown resident Lenora Mesibov said.
Opinions aside, the district has decided the symbol of hate is out of place on a high school stage.
The superintendent said he consulted with several rabbis and the Rockland Holocaust Study Center before deciding to cut the swastikas from the show.
“The Producers” was first performed as a Mel Brooks comedy movie in 1968, starring Zero Mostel as producer Max Bialystock and Gene Wilder as accountant Leo Bloom. The pair attempts to stage “Springtime for Hitler” deliberately as a flop so as to avoid having to pay out investors.
In 2001, the movie was adapted into a Broadway musical with Nathan Lane as Bialystock and Matthew Broderick as Bloom.