As sensitive as we are these days, it's a wonder there's anyone left to enjoy a show that tramples on political correctness and attempts (with great success) to offend absolutely everyone. Maybe that's the key to "The Producers." It's a level playing field, because no one is exempt and nothing is sacred.
The real key is probably that it's hilarious and enormously entertaining. It has an energy that's so irresistible I couldn't believe it had lasted almost three hours. I was breathless by the final curtain, but still wishing for more. Now, I know I say that about everything I see, but I didn't think I'd be saying it about this one, not after the first fifteen minutes or so.
At first the play seemed too over-the-top, and I was wondering if it would turn out to be as great as everyone told me. I've been disappointed by shows that I thought were oversold, and I was afraid this might be another example. It's a Mel Brooks show, after all, and the tone was something I should have expected. It just seemed a little more frenetic than it needed to be.
But after the first couple of musical numbers, I was hooked. By the time the really offensive stuff came marching across the stage, I was ready to cheer for a singing and dancing Hitler, just like (almost) everyone else in the packed Orpheum Theatre. It isn't just Germans that get the not-so-gentle, not-at-all-subtle Brooks treatment. He also lampoons the Jews and the Irish, over-endowed blonde bombshells and crooked accountants, gay theater folk and horny little old ladies.
I don't know how many possible targets of this wit and sarcasm were on the bus with us, but an older German friend of ours was definitely not amused. And she's not the kind of person you'd tell to "get over it." I'm not really sure if it was the dancing Nazis or the salty language that bothered her more, but either way it was a legitimate reaction. It's just that it was a rare one. Most of the people whose responses I could gauge, young and old, were entertained, either despite the tastelessness or because of it.
"The Producers" is also very self-conscious about the fact that it's a Broadway musical. It's a Broadway musical about the making of Broadway musicals, and the biggest, most obvious target of its satire is the kind of person who would produce a Broadway musical. Like the characters portrayed by the principal actors. Like the people who put their money on "The Producers." If you're going to zing the people who are backing you, you'd better be funny and entertaining about it.