Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Young Frankenstein (the musical)

Although I would like to write for the stage, I doubt that I have a musical in me, and certainly nothing like "The Producers" -- I'm just not that funny (or silly). But Mel Brooks is and that show (a Broadway musical -- made into a movie -- based on a movie about a Broadway musical) was wildly successful. My college roommate, Fred Applegate, played Franz in that show and later Max, in the touring company but also on Broadway and later in London. I didn't get to see him perform in New York, but I did see the show at the Kennedy Center in Washington, twice -- once with Fred as Franz and once with Fred as Max. It was great to see star in such a great show.

And now here comes "Young Frankenstein" -- also a Mel Brooks musical based on a Mel Brooks movie that if anything is even funnier than "The Producers" was. And Fred is in this one, too, as Inspector Kemp. The show opens for previews in Seattle next month and will open in New York in November. And this time I plan to get there to see it.


Fred Applegate said...

We just started our out of town try out in Seattle, and the reaction has been unbelievable: like a rock concert. And when you come to NY, you'll be tickled, I guarantee it.

Clifford Garstang said...

Fred, that's wonderful to hear! And I had a feeling something big was happening -- I've had a surge of hits here on the blog of people looking for information about the show. Can't way to see it!

Brian Elslip said...

My Wife and I saw the show last night and are still buzzing from it this morning. It's a wonderful, magical experience when all of a show's elements come together like this, the writing, set design, score, sound effects and the acting all were phenomenal. I plan to go again before the show leaves town, kudos to the cast and crew!

Clifford Garstang said...

Brian, thank you so much for leaving that comment. Now I'm even more dying to see the show and I'm sure Fred et al. are pleased with the audience's reaction.

Craig Duckett said...

My Wife and I saw Young Frankenstein: The Musical last night at The Paramount in Seattle and my eyes were wet the entire time from good cheer and laughter. As unbelievable as it may sound, it was even FUNNIER than the movie, with the addition of several songs with over-the-top hilarous lyrics (I'm still chuckling over "Deep Love"). The cast (Roger Bart, Megan Mullally, Andrea Martin, Sutton Foster, Shuler Hensley, Fred Applegate, et al) was superb, but the actor who played Igor (Christopher Fitzgerald) practically stole the show. Highly recommended! I'm already looking for tickets to see it a second time before it leaves for New York.

Clifford Garstang said...

Craig, thanks for sharing your reaction. The show sounds wonderful!

Brian said...

AMAZING! I took three friends to the show last night (8/9) and am looking for tickets again.
This was better than anything I've seen before or expected to see.
FRED- It was like a rock concert, and that would make you all rock stars, which is fitting--you rocked the house!

Anonymous said...

I just came back from a performance a couple of hours ago and I can't express how much I enjoyed this show. It was so amazing and completely knocked the ball right out of the park. From the lavish, enormous sets, to the gut busting comedy and music, to flat out brilliant performances-this show is a treat. I immensely enjoyed this show more than the original broadway version of the producers. Also I have never taken part or seen such a thunderous standing ovation the second the curtain went down at the end of the show. I already have tickets for opening weekend in NY!

Anonymous said...

I just posted earlier (ABOVE) and I had no idea the Fred Applegate posted on here. I would just like to say, Mr. Applegate, that your performance was so genius and hilarious. I can't wait to see your show again in NY. Break a leg on your amazing show.


Clifford Garstang said...

Andrew, thanks for stopping by and leaving your comments, and if Fred comes back I'm sure he'll appreciate them, too. I've never heard of such enthusiasm for a show, so I really can't wait to see it.

Fred, this is amazing! Congratulations!

Glo 210 said...

We just got back from seeing "Young Frankenstein" at the Paramount. It was so much fun!! We couldn't wait to see how they would make certain scenes into songs. "Putting On The Ritz" was exceptional. We thought the chorus/dancers were superb!!! However, the final was lame. It was too easy. It was like the writers didn't know how to end it so we'll just make everyone happy and that settles it. I'm sure the Mr. Brooks is aware of this weakest link and is working on making it stronger. New York will love the show!!

ag said...

We saw the show yesterday at the Paramount as well, and while it's obviously inappropriate to review a show before it's ready and in its final form, I can tell you the audience reaction was overwhelming -- every musical number was a show stopper. Overall the show may be even better than "The Producers."

With such strong content, it's going to be tough to cut the first act down to size: at an hour and forty minutes, it's grueling. And the two numbers most likely for excision happen to be the funniest, but bring the plot to a screeching halt.

Note to parents: be prepared to spend a lot of time explaining the many "adult" jokes to any kids under 12. Or just say "never mind" a lot.

If there's justice in the world, this show will run even longer and bag even more Tonys -- especially for the stellar cast -- than "The Producers." But NY audiences have a way of turning up their noses at stuff the rest of the country likes, so it's a crapshoot.

If you're in Seattle, grab your tickets now if you can still find them.

Anonymous said...

This show was fantastic! I didn't realize that it was such a long show until I checked my watch when leaving the theatre. I already bought tickets for the NY show but I hope they don't cut out too much, it was so brilliant. This is definately going to sweep the Tony Awards and ALL broadway competition. I prefer this musical to the Producers, although that show was genius as well.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous 3:14am:
I see YF 8/28/07. Do you agree with glo 210 (no disrepect intended glo 210 by this question)when he/she says: "...the final was lame. It was too easy. It was like the writers didn't know how to end it so we'll just make everyone happy and that settles it...". I read that even up to the time the previews started that Mel Brooks was not satisfied with the ending. A show has to come to an end sometime, so my guess is that the final product will have an ending worthy of Mel Brook's comedic genius. glo 210, I would write Mr. Brook's a letter if you have another idea on how this show should end. I do not believe that Mr. Brooks is arrogant and therefore would welcome your thoughts. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Saw the 2nd show here in Seattle. It is hysterical - perfectly cast actors - amazing sets...but probably needs about 20 minutes shaved off of it before it opens in NYC. It a bit like going to Rocky Horror Picture Show - people burst into laughter as soon as the characters hit the stage...knowing well the classic lines about to come. Re: the final mentioned by another poster - It did seem like a whimper/low energy as compared to the rest of this high octane show. Funny funny funny!!!

Anonymous said...

Don't miss this show. This is perhaps the best ensemble cast ever assembled for a musical. I mean, there's huge talent names in every part (although I wasn't familiar with Igor, but he's great). Roger Bart is a joy as is Megan, Andrea, Sutton, Shuler, etc., etc., etc. And Fred (two parts!) Applegate's hermit is hysterical. Be prepared to laugh and just enjoy good ol' musical COMEDY.

Anonymous said...

It is Alive, and in intensive care. It may have an abnormal brain, but it has no heart.(Saw 8/18 performance)

The performances were great, despite what they had to work with (read; weak script). Roger Bart was very solid as Dr. Frankenstein, and makes the role his own. Megan Mullaly does very well as Elizabeth, although her role is a bit weak in terms of character development. She plays it for every last drop, though. Sutton Foster as Inga is delightful, except she has no real substance, and her character looks genuinely lost and out of place through most of the show. She’s on stage quite a bit with nothing to do or add to the scene, so they simply use her to remove castaway props/clothing/etc in preparation for the next scene. Character? She has none, and she certainly didn’t portray one. Not good. Especially with her talent. Christopher Fitzgerald is absolutely insane as Igor…his physical dexterity and comedic movement is one of the show’s highlights. It’s brilliant! I hope he gets a Tony nod for his performance. Andrea Martin as Frau Blucher was deliciously sublime. Fred Applegate as the Inspector doesn’t stay in character the way it was done in the movie. He moves his “fake” arm too freely and naturally, versus keeping it stiff and tight and in character. Same goes for his walking. His Hermit was great, though, as was his singing. And then Shuler Hemsley as the Monster: great job conveying emotion/etc using nothing but his facial expressions and groans. “Putting on the Ritz” was superb, despite the use of strobe lights for the umpteenth time (see below). However, his monster chase through the woods was not at all suspenseful or funny. Just choreographed movements with no comedic/dramatic highs or lows.

The visuals and special effects were extraordinary. The lab was great. Except for the cheesy way they put the library in under the electrical tower. It should’ve been a separate flat that got rolled on and rolled off in front of it, as it is really only needed during one 20 second scene. Looked like an afterthought… a sort of college student seating area under a loft bed surrounded by a shower curtain. Some great visual devices were used – the carriage ride to the castle in particular. Strobes were used a bit…too much. Rather blinding and irritating after a while. And if you are sensitive to strobe lights, you were given no warning before showing up to the show after having bought your tickets. More could’ve been done to simulate an electrical strike to the monster during the height of the laboratory scene (which was VERY cool, otherwise). It was like having a sexual encounter where it’s over without knowing that either you or your partner had climaxed; there was no defining moment. There were some set pieces that were merely an 8 foot tall wall stretched across the stage that looked completely cheesy, especially in light of the rest of the sets. At the railroad station in Transylvania, for example, the 8 foot tall wall wasn’t tall enough to prevent audiences from seeing the horses and carriage from being lined up behind it for the next number. More could’ve been done to beef up the station set to make it actually look like a train station and hide the set-up of the next scene behind it. Speaking of scene changes, there were between 6-8 times that the set went to full blackout in order to change the set. I have NEVER seen this done in a Broadway show, and it made the transitions look stupid—it certainly didn’t give the show any added positive “theatrical” effect. And can we talk about the giant wart that was the monster’s lair for his tryst with Elizabeth????? C’mon guys, give the man some space and make it look substantial. It totally looked like a pup tent with a bridge built over it….poorly designed set element. And it would’ve been fun if they swung it around to reveal a posh bed and a simulated romp like in the movie.

The sound was GREAT. The voices were GREAT. Some songs needed to be either cut entirely or at least shortened. Who needs an 10 minute number about brains? The brain piece isn’t that critical a piece to the plot to warrant that long of a song dedicated to it. More about the Dr’s medical qualifications outside of his love of the brain would’ve suited it better. The introduction of Elizabeth’s entourage in the second act was a direct throwback to “The Producers” – (“meet my set designer, Kevin,”) etc. C’mon Mel, can’t you come up with something more original????? And while it was true to the movie, the ending was a bit soft. It didn’t have the lift or impact it should’ve had, and create a defined dramatic ending to an otherwise fun roller-coaster of a ride show. Diction needs to be worked on, too.

The show stayed very true to the movie, with a lot of the lines being kept verbatim. However, if you’ve not seen the movie (gasp!), or haven’t seen it recently, there’s a lot of the humor that can readily go over your head or appear to be simply stupid. It needs to be completely understandable by those who haven’t ever seen the movie.
The entire show seemed like something a spoiled child would do (hmmmmm……, who could THAT be???!!!???). One who would try to reach into his bag of tricks and try something new to get attention. Kind of like, “if you liked that one, you’ll LOVE this next one”…and we’re forced to sit through it for three hours. A total mishmash of theatrical gimmicks – including two puppeteering nods to “The Lion King”. A bit less spent on the gimmicks and more time spent developing the characters and musical numbers would’ve been better. The show had no soul, no sense that we cared about the characters or what happened to them.

All in all, however, it was a very fun evening. I wouldn’t say it was the best show I’ve ever seen, and I CERTAINLY wouldn’t pay $450 to see it unless Mel Brooks was my personal assistant during the show bringing me cocktails and food throughout. But, it has a GREAT cast, some GREAT visuals, GREAT sound and sound effects, and some very solid performances. It just needs to be tweaked (read: open heart surgery to install some needed humanity and heart) some more in order for it to be truly Broadway quality. Even then, it will likely end up being the step-brother to “The Producers”.

Anonymous said...

The shows ending is like the broadway show Curtains. An excellent show, but it just ends abrubtly with no real tune that you will be singing on the way to your car. The Show is flat out amazing however the finale needs to be bigger and, like everyone is saying, have more heart and a point. Hopefully anonymous 3:14am will agree with me.

Thumbs up from me. I can't wait to go see this in my own hometown NY, NY! I just couldnt wait until november to see this!

Anonymous said...

Re: Anonymous saw show 8/18
I saw the show 8/22 and have to agree with much of what was said. Loved Frederick, Igor, Blucher, the Monster and enjoyed Kemp. Sutton needs to find Inga - her singing is great, but there was no character. It was if she was standing around waiting for her next song. I know she's better than that! "Deep Love" needed to start out as if Elizabeth realy had an incredible experience then build into the camp - you don't really believe she just had 5 or 6 quick ones. I too, was bothered by the complete blackouts between some of the scenes. Kudos to the chorus - Putting On the Ritz truly rocked.

Overallit was a really fun evening with lots of laughs -- if they fix these few things, it could be a real hit on Broadway. The audience sure loved it!

Michael said...

This is all well and good, but the Broadway tickets are selling for $120 each, some more than that. This is absurd. Mr. Brooks musical is theater for the wealthy. What about the school teachers and the secretaries and the rest who barely make a living. We like theater too. And we'd like the opportunity to see the potential hit of the season.

Anonymous said...

Well, I just got back from seeing the first NYC preview. I was also at the first NYC preview of The Producers and I can't help but compare the two. Young Frankenstein had one huge moment (Puttin' on the Ritz); enormous audience reaction. The rest of the show was very enjoyable and I might even go to see it again.
The Producers first preview had at least 10 gigantic moments and uproarious laughter the whole night. By the end of the first act (90 minutes) the audience knew they were witnessing something incredibly special and it only got better with Act II. I mean this was an audience that gave several standing ovations during the show and stopped the show several times with prolonged applause during non-musical sections.

Added to the sheer genius of adapting this great, cult, movie to the Broadway stage it also featured incredible star turns by Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick and Gary Beach.

Last night was nothing like that. The only actor to get a decent ovation at the end was Andrea Martin who was very funny. Other than her, the only other outstanding performance was the production itself.

Roger Bart was Carmen Ghia and a part of that great night of The Producers and I'm sure he realizes how little these first nights had in common.

Anonymous said...

We saw the 10/13 show, and were happy to have seen it! Igor was AWESOME! He owned the show. "Together Again For the First Time" worked really well!

Frau Blutcher - simply amaizing and her "He was my boyfriend!" Even my 11 yr old daughter loved it.

Elizabeth - Well, she was Elizabeth... "Don't Touch Me" was so what you would expect, it fit beautifully.

The Monster - what can I say. He was briliant! (Probably our second favorite performance of the show - after Igor.) He shows sooo much with his facial expressions and moaning. Such a differet character from the role we saw him play in Oklahoma (Jud).

Dr. Frankenstein - We had mixed feelings here. He SOUNDED great. His mannerisms fit. He looked good. But we felt something was missing. I wish I knew what.

Inga - Well, she played the "dumb blonde" like a stereotype dumb blonde. She had some dynamic numbers, sang and danced beautifully and fit the role. We just wished there was something more that stood out.

Inspector Kemp/Blind Man - Was really awesome as the Blind Man (as others have said). His Kemp worked, but he was almost too "human" as Kemp. He could have gotten more "mileage" from his mechanical arm - but the sync between his movements and the arm was perfect.

The ensemble was a typical high quality Broadway ensemble! Always where they needed to be, adding to the performance that little bit that tells you this is a Broadway show. The sets were generally beautiful - though why the library seemed more like an afterthought - I don't know. The lab itself worked well.

Everyone in the family (11 years - 72 years) would go back in a heartbeat!

We had one "extra" for the performance. Gene Wilder was in the audience... They put a spot on him and he acknowledged the audiences applause durring intermission.


Anonymous said...

Saw it in New York last week and have to say I was not impressed.
And before you all get in an uproar I have to tell you that the rest of the audience did not seem very impressed either. Not one person stood for an ovation after this show. The laughter was, except for a few scenes, far apart and more of a chuckle that a laugh. I love Mel Brooks, but not this show.

Anonymous said...

I just found out that Andrea Martin is featured in the audio version of Seth Rudetsky's Broadway Nights!!! The audio version is fantastic and has recordings from other Broadway stars as well. This is a must-listen for all true fans. Check it out - http://www.audible.com/logo