Young Frankenstein is over-the-top fun

    Photo courtesy of Broadway in Chicago.

    New life has found its way to the Cadillac Palace Theatre through the wildly hilarious musical rendition of Young Frankenstein, the 2007 adaptation of Mel Brooks’ critically acclaimed masterpiece of the same name.

    With the widespread success of The Producers both onscreen and onstage, it seemed only natural to follow the formula for another insanely popular Brooks film (and as the cast teased during the final curtain call song “maybe next year Blazing Saddles”).

    Young Frankenstein tells the tale of Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (pronounced Fronk’-en-steen), grandson of Dr. Victor Frankenstein and how, despite initial skepticism and resistance, he “joined the family business” and created a monster. With the help of Igor (pronounced Eye’-gor), Frau Blücher (his grandfather’s housekeeper) and Inga (his sexy blonde assistant), he tamed his creation and restored peace to Transylvania Heights.

    The musical follows the film loyally, including every fan’s favorite jokes along with a few unexpected ones. Every scene is filled with laughs and of course musical numbers, but even if you’re not a musical fan, there’s a pretty solid chance you’ll love Young Frankenstein.

    Critics have noted that Brooks’ second Broadway show is overdone, over the top and overblown; however, that’s the brilliance behind it. Like Brooks’ other works, it’s a parody, but it’s also a parody of itself. It pokes fun not only at classic horror, but at the musical itself — the over-the-top camp is what makes it so fun. Where else are you going to see a blind hermit (played by Brad Oscar, who also plays Inspector Kemp) shimmying to the heavens for “someone who will care?” Oh, and did I mention the sexual innuendo? This show has so many dirty jokes, not even Michael Scott could keep up with every potential “that’s what she said.”

    But beyond the spectacle, the flashing lights, the effects and the full cast dance numbers, the solid cast is what really makes the show a dynamic, laugh out loud experience. The talented original cast member, Roger Bart, reprises his role as Frederick and delivers a performance as energetic and electrifying as Frankenstein’s experiments. You can see the inspiration he gets from Gene Wilder for the role, but what makes his performance stand out is the way he makes the role his own and inserts his own brand of insane genius.

    To compliment his laughs and garner even more of his own, Bart has Cory English, who plays Frederick’s loyal servant Igor. Bringing with him all the twisted and silly humor the movie had, he adds even more with his rambunctious stage presence and occasional pop culture references, like his hysterical rendition of the Mission Impossible theme song.

    Then there are the fantastic leading ladies whose sexually charged performances fire up the stage. First we have Elizabeth Benning, Frederick’s “mad cat fiancée,” played by Beth Curry. While her beautiful belting shook the curtains, her bombshell attitude and quick punchy jokes were the real thrill.

    Joanna Glushak, who plays Frau Blücher, was a show stopper, coyly and cleverly ad-libbing after an audience member whistled at her and shining through her ridiculously unseductive solo, “He Vas My Boyfriend.” Then we have Anne Horak, whose bubbly, ditzy and playful performance as Inga shone when she took Frederick for a “Roll in The Hay” and later asked him to “Listen to [his] Heart.”

    And let’s not forget Shuler Hensley, another original cast member, who graces the stage as the Monster. His escapades lead him from tap dancing to a full blown all cast rendition of “Puttin’ on the Ritz,” some serious love making with the soon to be Bride of Frankenstein, and eventually philosophically speculating on the meaning of life while simultaneously saving Frederick from his doom.

    Young Frankenstein definitely has some great musical numbers, but the attraction and thrill is in the dialogue and clever lyrics rather than the melodies and choreography. The cast dynamic shines through with great chemistry and impeccable comedic timing. From the bouncy and giddy “Transylvania Mania” to the sexual and partly serious “Deep Love,” to Dracula and The Wolf Man’s cameos, there’s something to laugh about every step of the way.

    If you’re looking for a dose of good old-fashioned Mel Brooks humor served with a heaping side of camp, look no further. Young Frankenstein has got you covered.


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