We saw Young Frankenstein
, the musical, at The Kennedy Center last night. I didn't read the reviews ahead of time, nor did I go back and watch the 1974 movie
upon which this Mel Brooks musical is based. I didn't want to. I wanted to go in with a light-hearted anticipation of a lighthearted evening. Which is what I got. The musical was half jaunt and half romp across the stage, combining big Broadway dance numbers with signature Mel Brooks sight-gags and a heckuvalot of phallic jokes.
The upside of the musical was a well-balanced cast, where the main actors all carried their pieces well without outshining the others. The voices were solid, and all three leading ladies presented their characters with appropriate completeness. Roger Bart has managed something that I really, deeply appreciate: he took a role from Gene Wilder. I don't know if part of it has to do with me not going back to the movie before the musical, or if Bart is just that good. Regardless, I'm pleased to say that I saw the Young Doctor on stage. It didn't matter whether it was Wilder or Bart. It was just that good a role presentation.
My favorite production numbers were "Join the Family Business" and "Puttin' on the Ritz" (classic from the movie). There were a couple of classic sight gags from the movie which were so memorable that I couldn't help but flash back to them when I saw them on stage. (The freeze-frame of Igor and Inga setting up to hunt the monster was perfect.) I think that the second act flowed much more smoothly than the first (with the exception of the "Someone" scene) because the action finally took focus on The Monster.
The downsides to the show were heavy (fake) accents and poor sound balance, which caused cacophonous presentations of much of the non-solo production. (The Washington Post
reviewer was disappointed, but he was also of an age to memorize and quote the original movie.) I was not impressed with the third musical number "Please Don't Touch Me" but figured I could give the starting bid of the main female character a "one club" pass and let the story unfold before I started squirming. I admit to checking my watch during "Roll in the Hay" and also towards the end of "Transylvania Mania." But all-in-all, the show moved right along, never lingering too long in any one spot.
The closing verse, after the cast had saluted the orchestra and was taking a final bow, included this promising and ominous line:Like ping-pong and paddles, maybe next is Blazing Saddles...
Bottom Line: If you like Mel Brooks but are not a die-hard movie fan, go see this. I had a good time, and am definitely glad I went.