The West End Whingers greatly enjoyed The Producers so when they heard that Mel Brooks was to follow up his tour de theatre with a musical version of Young Frankenstein they acted without hesitation and sent a reconnaissance team to New York City to check it out and report back on whether it was worth going or not.
Choosing the team was easy. Andrew had been so impressed with the critical faculties that Stanley (11), Delilah (16) and Mathilda (18) had exhibited at Gilgamesh that he shipped them off steerage class with their drowsy chaperones Allan and Helen.
Carefully briefed by the Whingers to ensure that they pay full attention to the total theatre-going experience, this is what they reported:
We all felt mighty elegant: Mathilda in her new, sleek black dress, Helen in her new Ferragamo shoes, Allan in his new cashmere jumper, Delilah in her chic ‘IT’S ALIVE!’ Young Frankenstein t-shirt and Stan content with a packet of M&Ms. Our first Broadway show.
A Whinger writes: Remind you of anything? Remember when The Simpsons go to New York and take in a musical set in the Betty Ford Clinic and Marge Simpsons confesses “You know, when I was a girl, I always dreamed of being in a Broadway audience.”
Oh, and this bit is funny, too:
Bart: When I grow up, I wanna be in the Betty Ford Center.
Marge: You’d better start saving now, it’s very expensive.
Lisa: Shh! They’re strapping down Liza Minelli.
Anyway, we digress. Back to the review:
However we were all a little disconcerted to have an Ellis Island experience as we and the aged audience startled like rabbits in headlights (or was that just their cosmetic surgery) were brusquely herded into an orderly queue outside the theatre by bullish security men.
Half the audience looked like Mel Brooks but without the sense of humour. We heard several of them whinge about the stairs… What did they expect with a balcony ticket?
The ushers more than made up for the cattle market of the egress. They had the difficult task of telling everyone that the programmes had not been printed yet (so we can’t tell the Whingers whether they are value for money or not) so we had to make do with a cheap giveaway Playbill.
Muzzy from Thoroughly Modern Milly (albeit blacked up) seemed to be working as an Usher in the Hilton Theatre. ‘Welcome. Welcome everybody,” she cried.
Delilah loved the guy in the gift shop and plans to marry him. So cute. To each of her many questions he replied, ‘Oh, I know, righhhhhhht?’
Helen loved the ushers on the balcony. There was a guy with a Tin Tin haircut and a woman who could have been Queen Latifah’s mum. Two men in front of us tried to take a picture of the set before the show began.
Queen Latifah’s mum said: “You know they takin’ your camera here if you do that? You know I don’t want to take you down to management right now. Do you know why? I’ll tell you, I don’t need to lose no weight and management’s three stories down in the basement.”
We don’t possess your powers of description, Whingers, but these people were really worth going to the show for. So make sure you arrive early to enjoy the pre-show show.
Speaking of the show….
Frickin’ loved it. Never had an experience in the theatre with such fast, slick scene changes. This was a Broadway show with all the trimmings energy and pizzazz you would expect. We were bowled over.
However, how much is Megan Mullally paid? She did one (very good) scene in the first act and a bit more in the second, but there wasn’t enough of her in the show. Having said that Helen was so happy with “Please Don’t Touch Me” that she’s quite content with whatever Megan Mullally was paid.
Roger Bart’s role of Frederick Frankenstein was played by Matthew LaBanca this night. None of us minded as we had little idea who Roger Bart was in the first place (except Mathilda and Delilah – he’s in Desperate Housewives apparently). Matthew LeBanca was more than OK although he rushed some of his lines in the early numbers, some so much so that we missed some of the jokes. He also mis-timed the slapstick in the early medical school scene. For the rest of the show he seemed to start enjoying it more and we did too.
Christopher Fitzgerald (Igor) had a good stab at a British accent (better than Dick van Dyke) but did veer between Cockerney, Mummerset and Brooklyn at times. As Delilah said, he was no Marty Feldman but Mathilda loved him anyway. Sisters, sisters.
There were a couple of highs and lows in this Broadway adaptation. For those of you who love the line “Sed – A – Give” (and we do) prepare yourself. For those of you who have always wanted more after “Ovaltine” you are in for a corker. And “Putting on the Ritz” was outstanding. What’s more, Horse puppetry was of the highest order and effectively restrained in its use.
Stanley says, “Better than the Producers.”
Footnote: The Whingers would like to thank the family for completing their reconnaissance task on time, to standard and within budget. On the strength of their report the Whingers have booked to see Young Frankenstein and are off to New York in a fortnight’s time. So it had better be good. Watch this space.