If Laughter is the best medicine, the Dr will see you now !
Are you sick of turning on the TV only to be met by scenes of doom, gloom, Brexit, Trump, ‘NOKO’ and the ever failing economy ? Then the remedy is simple – turn it off again, grab your coat and head for Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein.
This monster musical is based on Brooks’ Oscar nominated movie of the same name and if the reaction of the Theatre Royal crowd is anything to go by, it’s about to smash the West End. It is unashamedly funny, deliciously dark and dirty in equal measures and makes no apologies for at times being just down right daft – and that’s what people will love most.
The story pays homage to all the old horror films made great in the 30’s and 40’s that were then recreated by Hammer, Roger Corman and Richard O’Brien in the 60’s/70’s but from the opening song there is no mistaking that this is Mel Brooks; brilliant, witty, sexy, Mel Brooks whose love of Jewish culture, vaudeville, slapstick and women’s bodies have already made hits of Blazing Saddles, Spaceballs and The Producers (to name but a few).
The cast are all brilliant and clearly have bought into the Brooks mindset of don’t let the audience dwell too long on one joke before hitting them with the next, it keeps things feeling fresh (and makes for repeat ticket sales, I reckon you need to see it 3 or 4 time before you’ll feel you’ve managed to see everything). Hadley Fraser has a most difficult task in replicating the wonderful Gene Wilder as Frederick Frankenstein yet gives the audience enough of himself peppered with Wilder-isms to never be guilty of just copying the original. He tackles the super-fast wordplay with aplomb, can sing and dance with the best of them and never missed a cue despite having some of the most beautifully distracting legs to play opposite.
Fans of Brooks’ films will recognise many familiar themes; the scene introducing Inga (the gorgeous Summer Strallen) as Frankenstein’s assistant echoes Ulla’s first day for The Producers, the play between Frankenstein and the irrepressible Ross Noble as Igor has the same warm humour as Sherriff Bart and The Wacko Kid and even the Monster (Shuler Hensley brilliantly filling the big shoes) could be a distant relative of Mongo. Special note to Noble, could there be a better role for his madcap, zany and totally loveable humour ?
Of course, a musical needs songs and once again, Brooks delivers a soundtrack that will surely become a huge hit cast recording. Both Dianne Pilkington as Elizbeth Benning (Frankenstein’s repressed fiancé) and Lesley Joseph as Frau Blucher (the housekeeper) have solo numbers which don’t so much give an insight into their ideas of love as rip open their blouses and proudly show their heaving bosoms.
This was a wonderful opportunity to see the show before it hits the West End - to be able to say “I saw it first” will be a proud boast over the next few months when it undoubtedly rips up the reviews and gives London an epidemic of aching ribs.