The Theatreguide.London Review
Garrick Theatre Autumn 2017 -
Young Frankenstein is exactly what you expect, with no real surprises. And for fans of Mel Brooks's 1974 spoof of horror films that's praise and reassurance enough.
While you might question whether the movie really demanded to be turned into a stage musical, it is not hurt by the transformation, and gives a new audience the opportunity to enjoy Brooks's signature blend of high wit and low humour.
The plot is simple as the original Doctor's grandson inherits his laboratory and tries once again to bring a corpse to life, with much the same results, though with a comic edge.
Along the way we meet young Frankenstein ('That's fronk-in-steen!'), his voracious fiancee, the lovely lab assistant who will displace her, hunchback Igor ('That's eye-gor') of the shifting hump, the weird housekeeper, the lonely blind man, various outraged villagers and, of course, the creature – each of them a comic version of stock horror film figures.
If the musical's script, credited to Brooks and Thomas Meehan, is not taken word-for-word from the film, it certainly includes all the familiar set pieces, so no fan will leave complaining that they left out the best part.
The songs, music and lyrics by Brooks, are serviceable without being memorable, though (like some of the new dialogue) they do give Mel the opportunity to be a little naughtier than film standards in the 1970s allowed.
There are songs about tits, having a roll in the hay, and the creature's hard, long and firm lovemaking, and Brooks manages to work the word 'shmuck' into a lyric (It rhymes with 'run amok').
Irving Berlin's Putting On The Ritz is there, of course, with director-choreographer Susan Stroman expanding it from the original hilarious duet to a full chorus line production number.
Probably the biggest single surprise of the evening is who the star and driving comic force of the show turns out to be. Ross Noble is widely recognised as one of the most inventive and quick-thinking stand-up comedians around, but who knew he could act within a script, do broad physical shtick, sing and dance?
Noble makes more of the role of Igor than Marty Feldman was allowed to do in the film. It is his Igor you will be drawn to watch in every scene, and he will always be doing something, if only mugging like mad, to reward the attention.
Noble stands out on his own merits, but also because Hadley Fraser offers so little in the title role.
With no particular comic persona or comic energy, Fraser serves as little more than straight man and feed to the broad grotesques around him, and keeps fading into the background just because everyone else is more fun to watch.
Lesley Joseph plays the Cloris Leachman role of the mad housekeeper to the hilt, while Summer Strallen, all endless legs and ample bosom, makes the lovely assistant considerably more comically sexy than Teri Garr's innocent maiden in the film.
Shuler Hensley is given more to do than Peter Boyle was as the monster, and carries it off nicely, while Patrick Clancy has and delivers fun in the dual roles of the police chief and the hermit.
Mel Brooks is not Noel Coward. There is no subtlety or elegance to his humour. But if you like your comic characterisations broad, your jokes sometimes just a little dirty, and the comic energy sometimes relentlessly high, you are probably already a fan.
And any Mel Brooks fan will enjoy this musical Young Frankenstein.
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Review - Young Frankenstein - Garrick Theatre 2017