Controversial 'war crimes' musical set for premiere

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A musical dedicated to controversial Latvian Herberts Cukurs is set to premiere in his home town of Liepaja on October 11, local media reported Wednesday.

Cukurs became a famous aviator in the 1930s and was acclaimed a national hero after flying from Riga to the Gambia in Africa in a self-built airplane.

However, during the second world war he became an officer in the notorious 'Arajs Kommando', a pro-Nazi local militia that participated enthusiastically in the slaughter of Latvia's Jewish population.

After the war Cukurs went on the run, so was never put on trial.

Israel's Mossad intelligence agency finally tracked him down in Uruguay in 1965 and summarily executed him.

The idea of 'Cukurs the musical' sounds like it must be akin to Mel Brooks' classic spoof 'The Producers' but the authors of the project insist their musical 'Cukurs. Herberts Cukurs.' is a genuine attempt to tell his grim story via the musical genre more commonly associated with barnstorming songs and jaunty tap dance routines.

The project itself has not been without problems. Original lyricist Andra Manfelde withdrew from the project in May claiming she had known Cukurs only as an aviator and not as someone linked to Nazi war crimes.

Taking responsibility for what promises to be a noteworthy day in the history of Latvian musical theater are composer Jānis Ķirsis, lyricist Pēteris Draguns and dialogue author/producer Juris Millers.

Also putting their names to the project are director Ivars Lūsis, choreographer Liene Stepena and vocal coach Andžela Goba.

The cast will see Juris Jope in the lead role along with, Miervaldis Jenčs, Atis Auzāns, Jolanta Strikaite, Rūta Dūduma, Beāte Zviedre, Elza Natha, Imants Vekmanis, Madars Zvagulis, Gatis Supe, Ivo Grīsniņš Grīslis and Mariss Daniels Ķirsis.

'Cukurs. Herberts Cukurs' premieres at Liepaja Olympic Centre on October 11.


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