“Young Frankenstein” – ASU Gammage

This review aired on KBAQ September 30, 2010


ASU Gammage
Tempe, AZ

Mel Brooks’ “Young Frankenstein” is a prime example of a big Broadway musical gone awry. Brooks’ first musical, “The Producers,” worked because he cleverly adapted an excellent film comedy, added melodic, funny songs, and had director/choreographer Susan Stroman work staging miracles. The result was a sharp-tongued, hilarious show that improved on the film.

For “Young Frankenstein,” Brooks’ put all the same elements in place but the finished product lacks the sharp adaptation so it sputters on boringly and possesses few flashes of comic malarkey. “Young Frankenstein” opens ASU Gammage’s new Broadway season.

The ponderous musical drags using few of the film’s best moments effectively. Stroman’s fast-paced but plodding staging and her mundane dances lack any creative inspiration, almost like she knew the material was dull. Brooks’ uninteresting score contains many big production numbers that add nothing to the well known plot. Most of the songs are way too long, lack comic sparkle, and are repetitious.

Set in Transylvania in 1934, Frederick Frankenstein arrives to take over his family’s notorious creature-creating business. He leaves his uppity, untouchable girlfriend, Elizabeth, behind. Upon his arrival, he meets voluptuous Inga who becomes his perky assistant. At his grandfather’s castle, he meets zany Igor who also assists him as does housekeeper Frau Blucher. A series of madcap adventures occur as the creature is crafted. The film’s funny machinations and silliness are ridiculously overwritten in the musical. By the second act, the monster and Frankenstein do a hilarious dance to Irving Berlin’s “Puttin’ on the Ritz” and successful brain transference turns the monster into a genius.

Stroman’s usual creative staging spark is totally absent here making the show even worse. The tour has been out for a year so we have weak replacements that are poor clones of the roles’ original creators. Only Cory English’s hunchbacked Igor is funny. Christopher Ryan’s Frankenstein misses the comedic flourish and frantic timing necessary to succeed. Preston Truman Boyd’s Monster has some amusing moments. Of the women, only Joanna Glushak’s Frau Blucher has the needed wacky craziness. Janine Divita tries to be a haughty, arrogant Elizabeth but is colorless and painfully bad, while Synthia Link’s Inga lacks the irreverent innocence that would make her natural but unintended sexiness funny.

“Young Frankenstein” lacks the comic brilliance of Mel Brooks wonderful “The Producers” so he fails to turn his funny 1974 film into an entertaining Broadway musical. The show continues through Sunday, October 3. For tickets, call the ASU Gammage box office at 480-965-3434 or order tickets online at www.asugammage.com.

Grade: D


One Response to ““Young Frankenstein” – ASU Gammage”

  1. Larry said:

    Oct 01, 10 at 15:23

    I find it interesting that your review of the YF show is a compare and contrast to The Producers. Can you hum a song from the Producers? I have read all your other reviews and they seem to be stand alone/independent reviews. You give it a D? And basement ladies a C? REALLY? What about entertainment value? When did you see YF prior to being in Phoenix? It is funny, entertaining and well worth the price of admission. Come on. This is Mel Brooks.