Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The New Mel Brooks Musical Young Frankenstein

The New Mel Brooks Musical Young Frankenstein is a very solid musical—and the "solidity" is its weakness as well as its strength. The production values are high, the music well-written, the performances professional. Most audience members should be satisfied, especially if they can take advantage of discounted tickets from sources such as

But when it comes to the laff factor—the musical's ability to live up to the high low comedy standard established by the original movie—that's where the show falls as short as its title is long. When I saw it on June 15 (when many of the original leads were in it, with Jon Patrick Walker doing good understudy work as Frederick Frankenstein), I left with a greater appreciation of the cartoonishness of the movie characters. In the film, Gene Wilder swung wildly between meekness and madness, Teri Garr was a deceptively ditzy sexpot, Madeline Kahn was a prissy prude, Marty Feldman was a pop-eyed Igor, Cloris Leachman a brilliantly brittle Blücher, Kenneth Mars a mechanical marvel, and so on and so forth. In contrast, the Broadway characters came across as bland, not as kooky.

Musical Maven Myra has noted that at least two songs could easily be cut from the show's 160 minute running time. She seems right about that—though it's possible that the "extra" songs give the company time to change scenes. What I don't understand is why the silliness that worked so well in the movie seemed to be lost in the transition to the stage. I'm sure that the production remains very solid—"the best that money can buy"—but I hope that the producers try to juice the show by encouraging the actors to make their characters more comical.

Just look at how goofy the comedy can be in this trailer—not at first, but eventually. It's enhanced by the camera work, which gives audiences a more intimate perspective than the stage (especially in the doleful glances Peter Boyle gives the camera), but there's still got to be a way to raise the comic quotient in the theater.

Source (2:40)

1 comment:

David said...

I like how the trailer is narrated almost Hitchcock-like.

I also like how the trailer ends:

'Personally directed by Mel "Blazing Saddles" Brooks in black and white - no offense.'