Review – Young Frankenstein,

Wednesday 14 November 2007

Well, nothing could live up to what came before it, could it?

And we aren’t just talking about The Producers.

Young Frankenstein ain’t The Producers, but it ain’t Xanadu either.

Two nights ago the Whingers came out of Xanadu with mixed feelings – euphoric, but knowing in their hearts (sic) that their Broadway adventure had unexpectedly peaked too early.

They had mulled over what star rating they would have given Xanadu if they weren’t too lazy to have a star rating system. The Whingers love star ratings. They know where they are with a star rating; so much more useful than having things located in the wider discourse for you when it comes to deciding what to see.

So they and decided that on a six star Time Out rating, it would get a five.

On a standard five star rating such as The Guardian‘s (which actually has now been thrown into confusion having been exposed as a six level rating thanks to Gardner’s no-star rating for Menopause the Musical) they decided that to give Xanadu anything less than a five would be churlish.

Young Frankenstein. Three out of six, three out of five.

As we’re desperate to go shopping at Broadway and Lafayette we’ll keep this short.

It hasn’t got the heart or warmth of The Producers. It has no centre either. It’s more of an ensemble piece. Roger Bart (Frankenstein), Megan Mullally (Elizabeth), Sutton Foster (Inga), Andrea Martin (Frau Blucher), Christopher Fitzgerald (Igor) and Fred Applegate (Inspector Kemp / Hermit) share out the limelight pretty evenly between them so it’s just as well that they are all top notch performers (WEW accolades to Mullally, Martin and Fitzgerald). It’s just a shame that the material isn’t quite good enough to make it worth their while.

It’s funny, but not hysterical. Most of the gags were in the film so it all feels a bit familiar; a few good jokes have even mysteriously been dropped, including Andrew’s favourite: “Taffeta, darling!”.

The songs aren’t as witty as those in The Producers although full marks to Brooks for introducing yodelling into musical theatre. It went out of of fashion for a long time after Frank Ifield, but Sutton Foster could well bring it back into the mainstream. We certainly hope so. Oh, and does Sutton Foster (Janet in The Drowsy Chaperone) have it written into every show contract that she must be allowed to do the splits at some point? Not that we mind.

The Hilton Theatre (below) is a beautifully restored barn on 42nd Street. Even from the Whingers’ reasonably good “piggy back” (Phil was relieved this didn’t mean Andrew had to sit on his shoulders, even his beautifully gym toned body couldn’t have managed that feat of strength) seats (N25 and O25), the faces were little more than specks, even taking into account the Whingers’ fading ocular faculties. In fact the Hilton holds fewer people (1,800) than the Theatre Royal Drury Lane (2,200). It just seems bigger.

Anyway, the Whingers were fascinated to watch the audience fill the auditorium. What do those people who are rich (or foolish) enough to pay $450 for the premium orchestra (stalls) seats actually look like? Well, not unlike the Whingers actually, but not quite as well dressed as the Whingers had splashed out on designer threads that morning at the marvellous Century 21 department store and were desperate to “wear them in a bit”/”show off”.

And you’d think if you’d splashed out so much money on a show you could at least arrive on time. The auditorium had more comings and goings than Martine McCutcheon’s stage career.

Your money’s certainly up there on the stage (well perhaps not if you’ve forked out $450): huge sets and effects fill the enormous stage and this did feel like a proper Broadway show. But after the lightning and pyrotechnics of the monster’s (Shuler Hensley) creation climax, a woman in front of Phil said (in less than a stage whisper) “Don’t ya just love Mel Brooks?”. Phil thinks she was actually in love with set and special effects designers Robin Wagner and Marc Brickman respectively.

The great man himself, Mel Brooks, was also popping in and out of a side door near the Whingers’ seats and stood near them enjoying the obligitory standing ovation (is there a show on Broadway that doesn’t receive one?) at the end. He must be loving the strike as Young Frankenstein is selling out at the moment and presumably will continue to do so for as long as the strike continues. A good way to jump-start a show that only opened to the press last Thursday and to generally lukewarm reviews.

The Whingers were thrilled to feel so much a part of the Broadway scene. Not only to be so close to Brooks (can it have been mere coincidence he was standing so close to the Whingers?) but also to see that the hagiography of Brooks in the glossy, embossed, full colour souvenir programme ($10 – shame on you Theatre Royal Haymarket) was written by none other than fellow London theatre blogger and good sport Mark Shenton.

By the way, there’s a joke in the “goodbye” number that closes the show that Brooks will be back on Broadway with a musical version of Blazing Saddles. At least, we hope it’s a joke.

Must go. Shopping calls. We’re going to spend all the money we saved by not buying the $450 seats.



7 Responses to “Review – Young Frankenstein,”

  1. Esther Says:

    I think I agree with you, funny but not really hysterical. Although there’s alot about it that I loved, Christopher Fitzgerald as Igor, the ride in the haywagon, Andrea Martin striking fear into the hearts of horses everywhere. I just didn’t think Roger Bart was a very compelling Dr. Frankenstein, especially in the early scenes. I know it’s unfair to compare it with the movie, but he’s no Gene Wilder! Still, I’m glad I saw it. Glad you’re enjoying your trip to New York. I’m so jealous that you got to see Mel Brooks!

  2. Ed Avis Says:

    Of course five stars is a six-level rating system… marks out of ten means eleven possible marks… surely this is obvious?

  3. If the custom is never to give 0 stars then it’s a five-level system. Non?

  4. Ed Avis Says:

    Andrew – true enough – I remember entering a competition once where the lowest possible score was six out of ten. But in a newspaper with named reviewers you can safely assume that one of them will be grumpy enough to give zero stars or zero out of ten once in a while.

    I’ve seen B&Bs with zero stars from the AA and RAC, and it’s possible for a resturant to be in the Michelin guide but given zero stars out of a possible three, and so on – so I think it’s understood that you don’t get even one star without at least some merit.

  5. I never knew the FT allowed no-star ratings until my esteemed predecessor Alastair Macaulay reviewed Lorna Luft’s cabaret show… But I’ve never given a zero myself. Whingers, you’ve missed another no-star review from Lyn while you’ve been away: for “The Bicycle Men” at the King’s Head, starring Dan voice-of-Homer-Simpson Castellaneta in a fairly thin musical revue about, er, whatever. Nightingale, Times: four. Spencer, Telegraph: they don’t, of course, but it reads like a four. Taylor, Independent: three. Mountford, Standard: one. Gardner, Guardian: zero. Shuttleworth, FT: not published yet, and only will be published online if at all, as Norman Mailer died on to my page space. But I can reveal exclusively that my rating is two stars, and that’s rounded up.

  6. Which, when you look at it, seems to make me a girl.

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