It was one of the most anticipated showbiz events of the year, gathering steam in the entertainment press even as the show was being tried out in Seattle.
Adapting the beloved 1974 film to the stage posed a challenge. Mel Brooks had been very successful in morphing The Producers into a live musical. That one translated easily to the stage. Making Young Frankenstein into a live experience implied a major modification to the original concept. The nostalgic, iconic visuals at the core of the movie had to be thrown out.
Young Frankenstein was not only a marvelous comedy, it was a pitch perfect homage to the classic Frankenstein films, a visual spoof replete with authentic laboratory sets and evocative black and white photography. The effect was so dead-on, it was like stumbling onto an alternate universe Universal movie where everything looked perfect, but all the characters had lost their marbles. Translating to the stage meant losing the key visual treatment of the film. The set pieces are the same, the familiar jokes are all there on cue, but in the end, the new Young Frankenstein is a different animal. Going from film to stage, it traded satire for parody, finesse for burlesque.
Critics have generally been kind to Broadway’s Young Frankenstein. By all accounts, it is loud, boisterous and thoroughly entertaining. Sutton Foster has been singled out for her knockout interpretation of the lusty Inga (played by the equally excellent Terry Carr in the original movie), notably for a show-stopping hayride number, and the fabulous Andrea Martin is a perfect casting opportunity as the dreaded Frau Blucher. Most satisfyingly, Shuler Hensley, in the all-important part of the galumphing Monster (his third pass at the role), is unanimously acclaimed.
The unstoppable Mel Brooks justified his revival and retooling of Young Frankenstein as a Broadway blockbuster in a recent issue of Vanity Fair. “Listen," Brooks said, "the reanimation of dead tissue is important philosophical thought—and it's still good for a laugh."
For sheer hype and wall-to-wall coverage, no other Frankenstein event this year can match the media impact of Young Frankenstein coming to Broadway as a musical.
An article with pictures on fangoria.com.
Previous Young Frankenstein Musical posts.