I’m putting it out there that Mel Brooks is a comedic genius.
Young Frankenstein, based on his film of the same name, is a new musical on London’s West End, playing at the Garrick Theatre, and if the decent ticket prices don’t tempt you into the theatre, then the hilarious, ridiculous comedy work of Mel Brooks should. Brook’s music and lyrics prove that he is a man of comedy, understand older and newer audiences. It was comforting and exhilarating to sit in an audience filled with all ages, laughing and understanding the same jokes. Mel Brooks is able to use universal jokes and gags and make them timeless. Susan Stroman, as director and choreographer, orchestrates the extravaganza perfectly and Beowulf Boritt’s designs have just the right level of oddity. Making this a flawless package of a show.
I’m pleased to say that the musical sticks closely with the format of the film. Frederick Frankenstein, an American professor of neurology, is lured back to Transylvania to sell off his grandfather’s estate. Once he arrives, he finds it difficult to leave. One reason is his sexy, yodelling assistant, Inga, who does an incredible performance during a wagon-ride to the castle, regarding fork hay (“I’m a very hard forker,” she announces) and she flashes her knickers gracefully. Even more tempting is the prospect of repeating his grandfather’s experiment of reanimation dead tissue and implanting a new brain in the body of a giant corpse. His ego and love for science keep him there, but what could go wrong? He’s only got a crazy fiance back home and a not-so-smart assistant working for him. Surely, he wont have a bunch of angry villagers chasing after him for stealing a body, a brain, putting the two together and creating a monster.
The songs, written by Mel Brooks, are hilariously clever. Very simple and memorable, with lyrics such as “It’s me, it’s me” (for those of us who also have huge ego’s) and “don’t touch me” (a scene where couples dance the waltz without touching one another, heightening and poking fun out of the sexual harassment/gentlemanly behaviour.) audiences came away from the theatre singing, and I even do today, when I answer the phone or someone gets too close to me on public transport.
The set design is clear and colourful. There are some dramatic flashing and strobe lights when the monster is being created (by being hit by lightning) and the stage rises – this is a very impressive scene.
The main scene in the show, which everyone who has seen the film before hand will wait for, is the scene where the transmogrified Monster leads a tap-dancing chorus in Puttin’ on the Ritz. This was just as hilarious as in the film, so well done the cast for pulling it off. I had every faith, but with the film being such a cult it, I feel the musical had monster shoes to fill.
The acting is superb – Hadley Fraser (Frederick) Lesley Joseph (Frau Blucher) Summer Strallen (Inga) and the fabulous Ross Nobel as Igor, create the perfect foursome for this production. They bounce off each other and thrive on each others vibes and enthusiasm.
Mel Brooks had predicted what the critics were going to say about his new musical horror spoof, which was ““They’ll say it’s good but it’s not as great as The Producers.” Well, I may not be a renowned critic, but I have seen hundreds of shows, and I saw Ross Nobel in The Producers, and they are equally hilarious for their ridiculous and in-your-face comedy.