Friday, November 9, 2007

Young Frankenstein....the monster of a musical!

Well, it had to happen; didn't it? After the unprecedented commercial and critical success of "The Producers," Mel Brooks' follow up Broadway project was inevitably bound to suffer a backlash. How could "Young Frankenstein" hope to measure up to that legendary Broadway smash? However, few could have anticipated just how negative Ben Brantley would be in his New York Times review.

His diss (uncharacteristic of Mr.Brantley) on Megan Mullaly's weight is John Simon worthy. I am most upset by the lackluster reception to my secret lover Roger Bart. I have been championing this actor since I saw (and fell in love) with him in the tour of "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying," starring (yikes!) Ralph Macchio. After seeing Bart in "Fully Committed" off-Broadway (twice!) I officially labeled myself a full on Bart-head! He was also the only actor in the movie version of "The Producers" (which I still defend as far better than people give it credit for.)who adapted his performance for the camera with total success. I cringe to admit, however, that I agree with Brantley's view of Bart as Leo Bloom; he just looked a little lost. (Though having been around Matthew Broderick's performance as much as he had couldn't have been helpful for developing his own character!)

I was "The Producers" biggest defender. The greatest night I have ever had in a theatre was the first preview of "The Producers" in New York, March 2001. I have seen the show on Broadway no less than 7 times and regard it as one of the Great White Way's greatest and most important shows. "The Producers" revived the "comedy" in "musical comedy" and cemented cinema as the go-to breeding ground for Broadway adaptation. As a movie, "The Producers" was always begging to be a Broadway musical, given it's musical centered plot and Broadway setting."Young Frankenstein," the movie, garnered it's humor as a pastiche/spoof of Universal Studios Horror Depression-era horror FILMS. Brooks' commitment to it's cinematic style and vintage mise en Scene is what makes the low-brow Jewish humor all the more potent. As a brassy Broadway musical, "Young Frankenstein" was not begging to be made. The investment in the show is nonetheless huge. Can the producers salvage this critical whipping boy? Only time will tell. In the is some Mel Brook's Frankenstein brillance to be remembered and enjoyed.

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