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How’s YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN Looking These Days?

Hey, everyone. ”Moriarty” here. There’s been some actual geekbait on Broadway in recent years. I know our own Quint went berserk trying to get to SPAMELOT during its Broadway run. Now they’re taking one of the greatest film comedies of the ‘70s and bringing it to the stage as a musical. That’s got a chance at being great. And it’s got a huge chance at being awful. A reader just sent this in for us, and he certainly seems to have some strong opinions about how the show’s working:
Hi Harry, I’m not sure if there’s much of a cross section of Broadway musical fans and AINTITCOOL readers. In fact, it might just be me. But I know I’m not the only one who thinks Young Frankenstein is amongst the best comedies of all time. There was seldom a weekend growing up that Blazing Saddles, Spaceballs, History of the World, or Young Frankenstein was not in the VCR. So it’s with sadness, great sadness, that I report Young Frankenstein: The Musical is a dull monster that never should have been brought back to life. And to take the cheesy Frankenstein references one step further, after the remarkable adaptation of The Producers, lightning did not strike Mel Brooks twice. Actually, this musical’s much closer in quality to the ill-fated movie adaptation of the musical adaptation of The Producers. I saw Young Frankenstein months ago during a preview in Seattle , and I really didn’t want to write a negative review of any Mel Brooks show. But with the high end tickets going for $400, I felt obligated to save some AINTITCOOL New York readers a couple of sheckels. (As Mr. Brooks himself would say, it’s a shonda). Not saying that the show’s all bad. Andrea Martin is (not surprisingly) hysterical in the Cloris Leachman role of Frau. Her solo “He Was My Boyfriend,” lamenting her lust-filled affair with the original Dr. Frank, is easily the comic highlight of the first act. Roger Bart doesn’t quite erase the indelible image of Gene Wilder, but brings his own nervous energy to the part (though I wish he did more of the slow burn that Wilder used so effectively). The production design and lighting were fine, as was the choreography. And “Puttin’ on the Ritz”… yeah, it’s still hysterical. Unfortunately, there’s a massive problem at the core of this show. The original Young Frankenstein’s stroke of genius was how close it stuck to the original source material. I got to see it on the big screen a few years back, and it’s just a gorgeous-looking film. If you don’t notice Marty Feldman’s face, you’d swear you’re watching Bride of Frankenstein. Young Frank’s the straightest, least cheeky of all Mel’s comedies. But once you add music and hammier acting to the proceedings, all sense of horror verisimilitude goes out the window. Dracula has been successfully produced for the stage. I wish Mel took some more cues from that, and less from the borschbelt. The music leaves your head the second the songs end, as do the vast majority of the jokes. Mel’s always been about throwing a thousand one-liners at his audience. Just this time, so few of them actually work. The best punchlines you already know, and they were all done better in the movie. The worst part of this show, however, is Will and Grace’s Megan Mullally. I’ll admit, I never cared much for her on that show (which I also didn’t care much for.) And I think Madeline Kahn was one of the greatest comic actresses of her time. So I watched Megan’s performance with VERY low expectations. Somehow, she was even worse than I could have imagined (or feared). EVERY LINE IS DELIVERED IN AN ENTIRELY DIIFERENT GRATING VOICE. She doesn’t seem to interact with the other people on stage. All she seems to care about is the audience. This is by no means the worst Broadway-bound show I’ve seen (the post-Rent hookers musical THE LIFE takes that honor). And I doubt my review will dissuade many readers. (If I read this, I’d still probably go see it). I’ll confess that the Seattle audience ate it up like chocolate chip pancakes. Maybe they were looking for any kind of happiness after the miserable Mariners meltdown. It’s also possible that they worked out some of the kinks since the previews. I’d just say save your money for that new Blade Runner special edition. Or go buy 20 copies of the original Young Frankenstein on DVD. If you use this, call me LizardMan

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