Monster of a musical
Summit County Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado
When Mel Brooks realized there was gold in adapting his old comedic films into Broadway musicals with “The Producers” nearly a decade ago, it was only a matter of time before he turned to “Young Frankenstein.” After all, Brooks’ 1974 comedic classic contains all manner of appealing theatric elements: creepy castles, angry mobs, buxom blondes and, perhaps most importantly, a script that made it abundantly clear that Mary Shelley’s source material was not exactly sacred text.
For “Young Frankenstein,” Brooks turned to collaborator Thomas Meehan, who was instrumental in transferring “The Producers” to the stage (and, oddly enough, back into film). The result is a satisfying romp that, while breaking no new theatrical ground, is full of laughs and remains true to the film in a way that should satisfy any Brooks purists.
At the heart of the show’s success is Roger Bart in the role of Frederick Frankenstein (and that’s ‘Fronken-steen,’ he insists), grandson of the famous Victor Frankenstein of evil-creature-making fame. Bart owns the stage every minute he’s on it, demonstrating consummate skill in all the things a musical lead has to do – be it singing, dancing, hitting marks and punch lines … and the occasional grope. Bart has invested the Young Frankenstein character with a personality that’s morally ambivalent, subject to whatever whims grab him along the way. In this case, that ranges from cheating on his magnificently egocentric fiancee Elizabeth (Stacey Todd Holt) with aforementioned buxom blonde Inga (Anne Horak) to deciding to embrace the “family business” of monster building. This last is expediently motivated by a clever scene involving the ghosts of Victor and his ancestors, who invade Frederick’s dreams and, this being a musical, perform a big musical number to sway his conscience.
Convincing, yes, and “Boy, they sure can dance,” Frederick says of his ancestors.
The first act rockets through the plot points and ends with the monster running out of the house through the audience. In act two, there’s plenty of business to re-introduce a jealous Elizabeth, reconcile Frederick with his monster, mollify the townsfolk and, most importantly, do a full-on chorus-line number of “Puttin’ on the Ritz” featuring the monster (Rye Mullis) in tophats and tails.
As a touring Broadway musical, this is a topnotch production with magnificent sets and costumes, a live pit orchestra, great special effects and sound and a dynamite cast that genuinely appears to be having a wonderful time performing the musical. Bart alone is worth the price of admission, but Anne Horak’s Inga and Cory English’s Igor are also lots of fun – as are Mullis as the monster and Joanna Glushak as Frau Blucher (cue horse whinny). This is a naughty show full of sexual innuendo and crude humor, and it’s probably not appropriate for kids under 12 (although the 8-year-old in front of us at Tuesday night’s opening was having a fine time).
“Young Frankenstein” runs through June 27. This is a fun show worth the drive.