Mad and bizarrely brilliant, this musical based on the classic 1974 film is a great way to cure the blues.
If there is a more madly brilliant show than Young Frankenstein in the West End then I have yet to see it. Filled with quirky characters and some brilliantly witty songs, this is definitely a show that brightens up the West End with its presence.
Having first encountered the film version starring Gene Wilder, Marty Feldman and Madeline Kahn a few years ago, I knew it was going to be a big task to try and bring it to life for theatre audiences. But thankfully everyone involved has managed to do it justice – while adding a few extra jokes and surprises along the way.
Mel Brooks’ classic story follows Frederick Frankenstein as he travels reluctantly to Transylvania to sort out his recently deceased grandfather’s estate. But when he gets there, he finds himself drawn to completing his grandfather’s work – with the help of a few misfit companions. Essentially, the show spoofs all of the early classic horror films and relishes every opportunity to do so.
With Susan Stroman’s fast paced and highly energetic production combined with the witty music and lyrics by Mel Brooks, Young Frankenstein captures the pure wackiness of the film perfectly. While many of the lines will be familiar to those who know the film, there are also new jokes, extended roles for both Frau Blucher and the monster and reimagining of certain scenes to make the story feel refreshing and new.
But Stroman has also created fabulous choreography for songs such as ‘Don’t Touch me’ in which the dancers don’t actually touch – enhancing the humour of the song and scene and ‘Roll in the Hay’ in which there is a lot of bouncing around for all involved. It is constantly ensuring that the audience is having a good time watching as well as listening.
Some might argue that the humour feels slightly dated and that the female roles are perhaps lacking in depth because the humour relating to them is mainly to do with sex – but this is the nature of what Brooks does with comedy – we laugh at the stereotypes not because we necessarily apply them to people ourselves, but the fact that such stereotypes exist in the first place.
But everything is so stylishly done, with many of the familiar scenes from the film being done so well – including the whole troublesome candle in the bookcase sequence and the wonderfully extended ‘Putting on the Ritz’ scene for example will please fans of the film and delight newcomers.
The cast as well are clearly having the time of their lives. Ross Noble as the faithful and loyal Igor is fantastic in the role, he is so expressive as the character – with sharp timing and a great understanding of how to deliver Brooks’ unique sense of humour perfectly. Lesley Joseph as Frau Blucher is also a delight to watch – on the one hand wonderfully dry as she welcomes Frederick to the castle, while unleashing a complete diva when performing ‘He Vos My boyfriend’. There is strong support from Summer Strallen as the charming Inga, Dianne Pilkington as the spoilt and demanding Elizabeth and Shuler Hensley as the monster – who turns out to be really quite likeable. Hadley Fraser is perhaps slightly too serious as Frederick – never really showing his increasing mania for carrying out his grandfather’s work, but still delivers a lovely performance.
For those who are familiar with Brooks’ work, they will not be disappointed with this bizarrely brilliant show that offers pure escapism and is a joy from beginning to end. It deserves to be a monster hit in the West End!