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Touchy musical postponed to avoid ‘serious provocations’

Producer Juris Millers informed news wire BNS Wednesday that the musical drama about controversial aviator Herberts Cukurs scheduled for March 17 has been rescheduled to next month due to “the possibility of serious provocations” taking place during the performance at the concert hall Rīga inside the Academy of Sciences building.

Millers explained that he has received notice from the Security Police (DP) regarding the threat of possible provocations during the show. “The information was about some very serious provocations, which could have left impressions both on the cast and crew, as well as on the audience,” said Millers.

The producer-coauthor of ‘Cukurs.Herberts Cukurs’ repeated his claim that the musical drama is not even about the Latvian legion or the legionaries (conscripted into the Nazi armed forces during the German occupation), however decided upon the postponement out of concern for the public. March 17 falls the day after the controversial date observed on March 16, known unofficially as 'Legionnaires' Day' – which along with Soviet Victory Day on May 9 - is one of the most contentious dates on the calendar.

Last week Interior Minister Rihards Kozlovskis warned that the risk of clashes between marchers and demonstrators was higher this year than in previous years.

The new date for the show has been set for April 13.

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 willingly in the Germans’ rounding up 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.

Disgusted Nazi-hunter Efraim Zurof of the Simon Wiesenthal Center tweeted that the staging of the musical itself is an attempt to “whitewash (Cukurs’) crimes” as a member of the Arājs Brigade.

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.

LSM.eng editor Mike Collier attended and reviewed the show’s October premiere in Liepāja.

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.

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