NEW YORK – "That's why we want to produce this play. To show the world the true Hitler, the Hitler you loved, the Hitler you knew, the Hitler with a song in his heart."
Almost any theatergoer can tell you that's a line from "The Producers," the 12-Tony-winning show that single-handedly revived Broadway in 2001.
People went nuts for the Mel Brooks comedy, adapated from his 1968 movie about a Broadway producer and accountant who scheme to cash in with the biggest Broadway disaster ever: "Springtime for Hitler: A Gay Romp with Adolf and Eva in Berchesgarten."
This weekend, "The Producers" opens nationwide as a feature film, with Broadway stars Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick reprising their roles as Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom, respectively, alongside the more Hollywood-friendly faces of Uma Thurman and Will Ferrell.
This makes it a movie based on the musical adaptation of a movie about a musical. (Say that 10 times fast.)
But in its third incarnation, "The Producers" is palpably a little nicer, a little more mainstream than its predecessors. And, perhaps, just a teeny bit less "New York."
The film-obsessed Web site Ain't It Cool News assembled a list of the missing moments from the new "Producers," noting that "the most offensive aspects of the show have been cut."
Gone is Bialystock's opening number, "The King of Broadway," in which Lane bellows, "Who do you have to f--- to get a break in this town?"
"I did shoot that scene," says director Susan Stroman. "The performances are fantastic. But on film ... I needed to get the story started."
Gone is one of the edgiest lines in "Along Came Bialy," the number featuring old ladies -- Bialystock's favorite blue-haired investors -- tap-dancing with their walkers:
Bialystock: How about we play a game that doesn't involve any sex?
Old lady: Like what?
Bialystock: The Jewish American Princess and her husband.
Gone is Max and Leo's song, "Where Did We Go Right," which contains the line, "There was no way we could lose/Half the audience were Jews."
Clipped from "I Want To Be A Producer" are the "Old Man River"-ish lines sung by a black member of the chorus equating accounting with slavery.
And then there's the missing sequence in "Springtime for Hitler," the musical-within-a-movie, in which the mincing Hitler kicks FDR off the stage.
But the director insists her objective was always to move the story along, not to make the show more milquetoast. Besides, she says, there is still some off-color language in there.
"We say 's---,' we say 'ass,'" she says. "We nuzzle in Ulla's breasts. I think it's probably because in the theater version, we say 'f---' at, like, 8:10, people perceive it as being a little more risque."
Erik Jackson, editor-in-chief of the theater magazine Show People, says the film retains an acceptable amount of Brooksian bawdiness.
"There are a lot of really funny things that are insinuated," Jackson says. "I mean, the campfire scene in 'Blazing Saddles,' there's nothing like that in here. But there are plenty of T&A jokes, and some very funny riffs on gay life. I don't think it'll offend a lot of people, but it still tickles the funny bone."
And if it's funny-bone tickling you want, you can't do much better than comedian Will Ferrell, who plays Franz Liebkind, the dimwitted neo-Nazi playwright.
Less certain was the casting of Uma Thurman as Swedish secretary Ulla. With no theatrical training as a singer and dancer, she's got some very big shoes to fill -- not to mention the brassiere. Cady Huffman originated the Broadway role and made it her own.
Asked for his take on the casting of Ferrell and Thurman, Lane offered a placid defense.
"They're both immensely talented people," he says. "Will's hilarious, and he's certainly done a lot of musical stuff on 'Saturday Night Live.' And Uma's a great big movie star, and adorable, and she worked very, very hard. And I think all of that paid off."
Celebrity replacements aside, as an overall production, the film hews so closely to the stage show that it often feels like you're watching a really high-quality bootleg.
They let the camera sit like it was a member of the theater audience, Jackson says.
Stroman, who also choreographed the Broadway show, has said she wanted to create the type of old-school movie musical she loved in childhood.
"People need an escape," she says. "'The Producers' is like an escape. You can get away for two hours and laugh -- and along with that comes singing and dancing. People who have never been to a musical, they're gonna be hooked."
Raised on vaudeville and old-school Busby Berkeley productions, Brooks agrees. "When I first walked onto [the set], I said, 'Oh my God, this is incredible," Brooks says. "This is 'Singin' in the Rain' ... It's all the great Hollywood musicals."
And if that doesn't turn out to be the case?
Well, we've heard that under the right circumstances, you can make more money with a flop than a hit ...