November 7, 2007

Frankenstein's Stage Fright

New York theater’s “other” Frankenstein musical, the serious one, started its official run at 37 Arts on November 1st. After months of preparation and a long run in preview, now it’s official and the critics can speak, and it looks the show is in for a rough ride.

The New York Times’ Charles Isherwood plays on a Mary Shelley line about “a night of unmingled wretchedness” and calls the production a “drably earnest two hours of throaty sturm und drang. The Daily News’ Joe Dziemianowicz calls it a boring, “bombastic and mind-boggling… misfire”. Newsday’s Linda Winer writes: “This one is not even a horror show. It is, however, horrible.” The New York Post’s Frank Scheck says it all with his title: “Monstrously bad.”

The problem, it seems, is in the telling. The cast is mostly commiserated with for doing their best with poor material. The score gets thumbs down all around. Steve Blanchard, the play’s Creature, is never panned but he does get a ribbing for his bare-chested, rock star posture. The bare bones staircase set and slide-show projections fail to impress.

Michael Dale, on Broadway World, has a fair bit of fun with the show, calling it “Jung Frankenstein”, adding that “The valiant stars do give praiseworthy performances under trying circumstances”, being “made to bellow out hollow emotions to over-amplified anthematic melodies”.

A couple of positive but hardly influential reviews have cropped up. Diane Barth at Epoch Times reports “excellent performances” and writes, “Overall, the production conveys a sense of anticipation, uncertainty, and romance, very much in line with Mary Shelley's concept.”

Julie Reed of The Associated Press says Steve Blanchard commands the stage and concludes: “This "Frankenstein" brings the classic story thrillingly to life. No green giant, but you won't miss him.”

Speaking of the green giant, the other Broadway Frankenstein, the Young and funny one, officially opens on Thursday, November 8. We’ll soon see what the critics think of that one, but sky-high anticipation levels, months of massive publicity and huge ticket pre-sales suggest that Mel Brooks’ multi-million dollar show is bulletproof and would survive even universal (but unlikely) lambasting. Right off the bat, according to the Broadway World News Desk, the premiere will be accompanied by heavy TV coverage that includes The Today Show and NBC Nightly News.

Interesting footnote: Hunter Foster, the Dr. Frankenstein in the Off-Broadway show, interviewed on AM New York, was asked about the differences between the two Frankenstein musicals. Foster replied: “We’re $400 cheaper”.

Top photo source: New York Times, Sarah Krulwich.

(Thanks to Marc Berezin for linkage!)

1 comment:

Laurenisajedihaha said...

Came across this blog not too long ago--AWESOME. My senior thesis in drama was directing a version of Frankenstein on stage (Sandberg was the author) and ever since then I've been looking up as much Frankenstein material as I can. Personally I've read 6-7 versions of stage adaptations and read as much as I can of this off-Broadway musical.

I'll admit the music put me off at first, seemed a little too up beat but now that I've listened to it as much as I have it's grown on me. I'm sad to say that I never made it up to NY to actually see it, but the pictures on the website look awesome. I do, however respect their intention of staying as true to the book as possible, and being a writer makes me appreciate it even more. Stuff that's faithful like this that pops up every now and then among the more gratuitous adaptations that people are familiar with is refreshing.

Awesome Blog!