Young Frankenstein

Original Broadway Cast Recording

Decca Broadway, 2007

REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert


Let me make one thing perfectly clear here: Mel Brooks is having too damn much fun in his old age. With the massive success of his adaptation of The Producers (12 Tony Awards, over 2000 performances, et cetera), Brooks can get away with pretty much anything he wants; what he wants now is to do a Broadway musical adaptation of his classic film Young Frankenstein, which Brooks calls “pretty much the best movie I ever made.” Being a Brooks aficionado, I would agree; Young Frankenstein is one of my top five films of all time. But any remake begs the question: how do you top the original’s brilliant performances by Gene Wilder, Marty Feldman, and Teri Garr? How do you improve something that damned good?

There’s a simple answer: have one of the best traditional musical scores I’ve ever heard.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Young Frankenstein – The Musical is not Rent or Spring Awakening. YFTM is an old-fashioned, early-to-mid-twentieth-century musical. It has a full orchestra with nary an electric guitar to be heard. The musical numbers all hearken back to various famous musical styles; indeed, the comprehensive liner notes on the CD cheerfully admit the homages Brooks has indulged in. Influences from Danny Kaye’s tongue-twisting song patter and Bob Hope and Bing Crosby’s Road movies to Kurt Weill’s Three-Penny Opera pop up with wild abandon, and the cast makes the most of the theatrics. Roger Bart as Viktor von Frankenstein and Sutton Foster as Inge are wonderful, but the real meat is found in the supporting characters. Christopher Fitzgerald’s Igor is creepily funny without resorting to a pale imitation of the late Feldman, Andrea Martin is palpably ominous as Frau Blucher, and Megan Mullaly is absolutely brilliant as von Frankenstein’s crazy, frigid, shallow fiancée Elizabeth.

With the exception of “Transylvania Mania,” which somehow feels tacked on, the songs are all magnificent. Brooks has reinvented himself as a lyricist and composer, and it’s a tour de force; it seems almost unfair that one man is that brilliant. Special note has to be made of “The Brain,” “Join The Family Business,” “He Vas My Boyfriend” (the greatest song about domestic abuse since Tom Lehrer’s “Masochism Tango,”) and “Life, Life.” In fact, if I have any complaint about YFTM, it’s that the songs in the first act are so good that the second act pales a bit -- though it does include the funny, funny “Listen To Your Heart.”

Mel Brooks once said “Good taste is the enemy of comedy.” While there are some moments in Young Frankenstein – The Musical that this applies to (really, Mel, a song called “Deep Love”? Subtle it ain’t), overall, this is a mature, funny, and well-written musical that is performed admirably. Musical fans shouldn’t miss it.

Rating: A-

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© 2008 Duke Egbert and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Decca Broadway, and is used for informational purposes only.