AISLE SAY San Francisco


Music and Lyrics by Mel Brooks
Book by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan
Directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman
Presented by Best of Broadway
Golden Gate Theatre
1 Taylor St., San Francisco / (415) 776-1999

Reviewed by Judy Richter

Just as he did with his smash hit "The Producers," the versatile Mel Brooks has adapted another of his popular films for the musical theater. This time it's "Young Frankenstein," which is adapted from the story and screenplay by Brooks and Gene Wilder. This time too, Brooks collaborates with writer Thomas Meehan on the book, and once again pens his own music and lyrics. However, "Young Frankenstein" seems much less inspired and certainly is less interesting than "The Producers."

The idea has promise. It's 1934. Frederick Frankenstein (Roger Bart), a noted American brain surgeon, has been summoned to Transylvania to claim the estate of his recently deceased grandfather. When he arrives, he learns that his grandfather has been involved in some ghoulish experiments that appalled the neighboring villagers. He also meets the humpbacked Igor (Cory English), who was his grandfather's lab assistant; the sexy Inga (Anne Horak), who is to be his assistant; and the older, haughty Frau Blucher (Joanna Glushak), his grandfather's housekeeper and lover.

Despite his best intentions, Frederick is fascinated by his grandfather's work. Assisted by Igor and Inga and some grave-robbing, he creates the Monster (Shuler Hensley), who terrifies everyone with his lumbering gait and inarticulate roars -- that is, until he meets Frederick's fiancee, Elizabeth (Beth Curry). Though she had never let Frederick touch her, she quickly succumbs to the Monster's charms, i.e., his physical endowments.

The whole thing is silly with a thin plot, stock characters, and puerile jokes and sight gags. Brooks' songs aren't particularly memorable, particularly when compared with the best scene in the whole show -- a dance routine to Irving Berlin's "Puttin' on the Ritz." Director Susan Stroman's choreography shines in this tap routine featuring the Monster and what appears to be his shadow.

Robin Wagner's scenery for this national touring production is mainly painted backdrops except for the Frankenstein lab with its gears, pulleys and banks of lights. Lighting by Peter Kaczorowski overdoes the strobes, so much so that I had to close my eyes during some scenes. William Ivey Long's costumes are stylish, and sound designer Jonathan Deans resists the temptation to crank up the volume. Robert Billig serves as musical director. Considering the material, the cast is generally quite good, especially English as Igor. It should be noted that the opening night audience appeared to love the show.

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