Young Frankenstein (musical)

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For the movie, see Young Frankenstein. For the DC Comics character, see Young Frankenstein (comics).
Young Frankenstein
Young frankenstein brooksa.JPG
Original Broadway Cast Album cover
Music Mel Brooks
Lyrics Mel Brooks
Book Mel Brooks
Thomas Meehan
Basis 1974 film Young Frankenstein
Productions 2007 Seattle Tryout
2007 Broadway
2009 Buenos Aires
2009 United States Tour
Awards Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Musical

Young Frankenstein, officially known as The New Mel Brooks Musical Young Frankenstein, is a musical with a book by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan and music and lyrics by Brooks. It is based on the 1974 comedy film of the same name written by Brooks and Gene Wilder and directed by Brooks, who has described it as his best film.[1] It is a parody of the horror film genre, especially the 1931 Universal Pictures adaptation of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and its 1939 sequel, Son of Frankenstein.

After tryouts in Seattle, Washington and four weeks of previews, the musical opened on Broadway on November 8, 2007 to mixed reviews. The Broadway production closed on January 4, 2009 after 30 previews and 484 performances. A U.S. tour started on September 29, 2009 in Providence, Rhode Island.[2]

Background[edit]

After the success of his 2001 musical, The Producers, based on Brooks' earlier film of the same name, it was not surprising that Brooks would choose to create a musical based on another of his successful films. Brooks and Meehan (the same team that crafted The Producers) began work on the project in April 2006. An October 2006 reading of the first draft of the script directed by Susan Stroman (who had directed the earlier musical)[3] featured Brian d'Arcy James as Dr. Frankenstein, Megan Mullally as Elizabeth, Sutton Foster as Inga, Roger Bart as Igor, Marc Kudisch as Inspector Kemp, and Shuler Hensley as the Monster (Hensley had previously played a different version of the character in the 2004 film Van Helsing).[4]

Cloris Leachman, reprising her film role as Frau Blücher, also attended the table read, and at the time it was widely reported she would be offered the role of Blücher for the stage show.[5] However, gossip maven Liz Smith reported in her January 12, 2007 New York Post column that Leachman was sent a letter informing her she would not be considered for the Broadway production because the producers wanted to keep the film and stage properties separate (and also because of Brooks's concerns over Leachman's ability to perform the character consistently at her age). Despite this, due to Leachman's success on Dancing with the Stars, Brooks reportedly asked her to reprise her role as Frau Blücher after Beth Leavel left the production. Unfortunately, the production closed before Leachman could take over the role.[6][7]

Productions[edit]

Seattle tryout (2007)[edit]

The pre-Broadway try-out played at the Paramount Theatre in Seattle, Washington from August 7, 2007 through September 1, 2007.

Broadway (2007-2009)[edit]

Young Frankenstein began previews on Broadway on October 11, 2007 and opened on November 8 at the Foxwoods Theatre (then the Hilton Theatre) and closed on January 4, 2009 after 485 performances. Directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman, it starred Roger Bart as Frankenstein, Megan Mullally as Elizabeth, Christopher Fitzgerald as Igor, Sutton Foster as Inga, Andrea Martin as Frau Blucher, Shuler Hensley as The Monster, and Fred Applegate as Inspector Kemp. Kristin Chenoweth was originally cast to play Elizabeth. However, due to conflicts with filming Pushing Daisies, she had to drop out from the role. Sets were designed by Robin Wagner and costumes by William Ivey Long; orchestrations were by Doug Besterman. The production had a reported $16 million-plus budget[8] and a top ticket price of $450 in its “differential seating.” It also sold front row tickets for $25 each based on a lottery a few hours before each performance.[9] The producers indicated that they planned to buck the usual Broadway practice by not reporting Box Office returns.[10]

The musical's original cast album was released on December 26, 2007, by Decca Broadway and was third on the Billboard Top Cast Album chart in the beginning of January 2008.[11]

Replacements for the Broadway company included Kelly Sullivan as Inga; Beth Leavel as Frau Blucher; Michele Ragusa as Elizabeth Benning; and Cory English as Igor.[12][13]

US tours[edit]

First National Tour A touring production of the show began in September 2009 at the Providence Performing Arts Center, Providence, Rhode Island.[14] The cast for the tour included Roger Bart and Shuler Hensley, reprising their Broadway roles, along with Cory English (Igor), Brad Oscar (Inspector Kemp/Blind Hermit), Beth Curry (Elizabeth), Joanna Glushak (Frau Blucher) and Anne Horak (Inga).[15][16]

The show went on temporary hiatus on August 8, 2010 and re-opened on September 12, 2010 with a new cast that includes Christopher Ryan as Frederick Frankenstein, Preston Truman Boyd as The Monster, David Benoit as Inspector Kemp, Janine Devita as Elizabeth, and Synthia Link as Inga. English and Glushak continued to play the roles they created on tour.[17]

Second National Tour The show re-opened for a second National Tour on September 30, 2011 after two previews in Utica, New York.[18][19] The cast included A.J. Holmes (Frederick Frankenstein), Lexie Dorsett (Elizabeth), Elizabeth Pawlowski (Inga), Rory Donovan (The Monster), Pat Sibley (Frau Blucher), Christopher Timson (Igor), Britt Hancock (Inspector Kemp), and an ensemble composed of Edward Charles Carignan II, Gregory Dassonville, Michael Peter Deeb, Jerome Doerger, Brett Figel, Kinsland Howell, Lauren Kadel, Graham Keen, Stephanie Madden, Caitlin Maloney, Kevin Metzger, Ashley Gale Munzek, Sarah O'Connor, Kristen Schoen-Rene, Tug Watson, and Eric Weaver.[20]

Synopsis[edit]

Act I[edit]

In 1934, the villagers of Transylvania Heights celebrate the funeral procession of the mad scientist, Dr. Victor von Frankenstein. However, Inspector Kemp, who has a wooden right arm and wooden left leg, tells the town of the existence of Victor's grandson: Frederick, the Dean of Anatomy at New York's Johns, Miriam and Anthony Hopkins School of Medicine. The village idiot, Ziggy, convinces the other villagers that there is no way a New York doctor would come to Transylvania, thus continuing the celebration ("The Happiest Town In Town").

In New York, Frederick Frankenstein is ashamed to be a Frankenstein, insisting his name be pronounced "Fronkensteen" and that he is not a madman but a scientist. He lectures his students about the greatest mind of science ("The Brain"). After learning that he has inherited his grandfather's castle in Transylvania, he is forced to resolve the issue of the property. As Elizabeth Benning, Frederick's fiancée, sees him off, it is clear that their relationship is far from physical as Elizabeth enumerates all the lustful situations from which she is abstaining ("Please Don't Touch Me").

Arriving at Transylvania Heights, Frederick meets the hunchback Igor (pronounced "Eye-gore"), the grandson of Victor's henchman, who is extremely excited to meet Frederick. Igor tries to convince him to continue in his grandfather's footsteps ("Together Again (for the First Time)"); he has already hired the services of Inga, a yodeling lab assistant with a degree in Laboratory Science from the local community college. During a wagon ride to Castle Frankenstein, a yodeling Inga and the doctor indulge in a "Roll in the Hay" (Roll in the Hay). When they reach the castle, they meet the mysterious Frau Blücher, whose spoken name frightens the horses.

Once inside the castle's main living room, Frederick falls asleep reading Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm and dreams that his grandfather and ancestors encourage him to build a monster ("Join the Family Business"). He is awakened by Inga, and they find the secret entrance to his grandfather's laboratory behind a book case by following eerie violin music. They discover the mysterious violin player to be Frau Blücher, who tells of her past of festival games with the late Victor for whom she was more than just a housekeeper ("He Vas My Boyfriend"). After reviewing his grandfather's notes, Frederick decides to carry on the experiments in the reanimation of the dead and requests Igor to find a large corpse as well as the brain of a scholar. The villagers gather at the local town hall for a meeting and are instructed to be on the lookout for grave robbers, as Frederick and Igor go through the town with their corpse ("The Law"). Igor returns with the brain, but drops it, surreptitiously replacing it with another. Frederick creates the creature ("Life, Life"), who goes on a rampage shortly after waking. The doctor is distressed to find that Igor had provided a different brain whose name he recalls as "Abby Normal".

Inspector Kemp and the townspeople come to the castle to investigate, pretending to welcome Frederick ("Welcome to Transylvania"). Frederick and his employees try to stall the villagers ("Transylvania Mania") while Frau Blücher frees the Monster without letting Frederick know. Panic ensues as the monster breaks free from the stage and tramples through the house.

Act II[edit]

The town begins to search for the Monster, with Frau Blücher trying to bringing him back with the music from the violin, but to no avail ("He's Loose"). Inga talks to the frustrated doctor ("Listen to Your Heart"). Frau Blücher and Igor find the two suspended on the platform, completing what Igor refers to as "an experiment in female anatomy."

Elizabeth arrives unexpectedly in Transylvania with a large entourage ("Surprise") and finds Frederick and Inga, both in a state of undress, who tell her that no funny business was taking place. Meanwhile, the Monster finds a blind hermit named Harold after breaking through his house wall ("Please Send Me Someone"). Eventually, after Harold accidentally pours hot soup into the Monster's lap and lights his thumb (mistaking it as a cigar), the Monster is startled into another yelling rampage and leaves. Frederick locks himself into a room with the Monster, and after overcoming his fears he tells the Monster that he is a good looking fellow who is loved and will be hailed by all ("Man About Town").

The Monster is presented at the Loews Transylvania Theatre, now dressed as a gentleman, first walking on command, and then dancing to Irving Berlin's "Puttin' on the Ritz". While taking his bow, the Monster becomes terrified when some stage lights explode. Elizabeth is kidnapped by the creature and is taken to a cave and raped. However, she is now seeing a different side of the Monster and discovers what she has been yearning for in her life ("Deep Love"). Luring the Monster back to the castle by the music of a French horn, Frederick attempts an intelligence transfer, but the Monster does not wake, and to make things worse, Inspector Kemp and the angry villagers (believing that Elizabeth has been killed by the Monster) break into the castle and bring Frederick to the gallows. The doctor is hanged after finally accepting his family name ("Frederick's Soliloquy").

The Monster returns, not only able to speak articulately but also using his newly transferred medical skills to discover that Frederick is not dead, but merely unconscious and is able to bring him back to life. Just as the crowd is about to re-hang Frederick and the Monster, Elizabeth arrives. The Monster proposes to Elizabeth ("Deep Love" (Reprise)), while the hermit returns still looking for a lover, to which Frau Blücher announces she has a "blind date" with him. Igor proclaims a miracle, saying that his hump is gone, but quickly realizes that it is in the middle of his back instead of his side. Suddenly, Count Dracula appears, wishing to purchase the castle on the hill, but Frederick tells him the castle is not for sale and he will be living in it and continuing the family business from now on. He then proposes marriage to Inga which she accepts. Inga questions her new husband what he got in return for giving the Monster his brilliant mind, to which Frederick says the Monster gave him his "enormous schwanstuker" in return ("Finale Ultimo").

Differences from the original film[edit]

Although the plot remains mostly the same, there are several changes from the original film. "The Happiest Town in Town" is not based on any scene from the film. Elizabeth arrives in Transylvania earlier than in the film, where she arrives after "Puttin' on The Ritz," a song performed in the film by only Frederick and the Monster; in the musical, it is sung by all the characters, except Elizabeth and the villagers. The scene from the film with the little girl is not in the musical. In the film, the Monster is lured not by a French horn but a violin, and awakens in the laboratory directly after the brain transfer; in the musical, the Villagers hang Frederick before the Monster wakes and saves him, with the ensuing finale much expanded.[21]

Musical numbers[edit]

Note: "Alone" – Elizabeth was cut in Seattle but included on the cast recording. "The Law" is not included on the cast recording.

Roles and original Broadway cast[edit]

Role Original Broadway production First US National Tour Second US National Tour Original Italian production [22]
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein Roger Bart A.J. Holmes Giampiero Ingrassia
The Monster Shuler Hensley Rory Donovan Fabrizio Corucci
Igor Christopher Fitzgerald Cory English Christopher Timson Mauro Simone
Inga Sutton Foster Synthia Lirk Elizabeth Pawlowski Valentina Gullace
Elizabeth Benning Megan Mullally Beth Curry Lexie Dorsett Giulia Ottonello
Frau Blücher Andrea Martin Joanna Glushak Pat Sibley Altea Russo
Inspector Hans Kemp
Harold the Hermit
Fred Applegate Brad Oscar Britt Hancock Felice Casciano
Dr. Victor Frankenstein Kevin Ligon N/A Jerome Doerger Roberto Colombo

Broadway Replacement Cast[edit]

  • Kelly Sullivan replaced Sutton Foster as "Inga" on July 8, 2008.[23]
  • Beth Leavel replaced Andrea Martin as "Frau Blucher" on July 15, 2008.[24]
  • Michele Ragusa replaced Megan Mullally as "Elizabeth Benning" on August 5, 2008.[25]
  • Cory English replaced Christopher Fitzgerald as "Igor" on November 25, 2008.[26]

Tour Replacement Cast[edit]

  • Rye Mullis temporarily replaced Shuler Hensley as "The Monster" on April 8, 2010.[27][28]
  • Shuler Hensley returned to the role of "The Monster" on June 26, 2010.
  • Christopher Ryan replaced Roger Bart as "Frederick Frankenstein" on September 12, 2010.
  • Preston Truman Boyd replaced Shuler Hensley as "The Monster" on September 12, 2010.
  • David Benoit replaced Brad Oscar as "Inspector Kemp" on September 12, 2010.
  • Janine DiVita replaced Beth Curry as "Elizabeth Benning" on September 12, 2010.
  • Synthia Link replaced Anne Horak as "Inga" on September 12, 2010.
  • Jason Peterson replaced Janine DiVita as "Elizabeth Benning" on October 12, 2010.

Reception[edit]

Young Frankenstein generally received mixed critical reviews, and was often compared to The Producers.[29][30] The New York Times called it "an overblown burlesque revue, right down to its giggly smuttiness ... Mr. Brooks’s songs have a throwaway quality, as if they were dashed off on the day of the performance."[31]

The New York Post gave a more positive review, saying that the show "is nearly very good indeed" and that "Brooks and Stroman pull out every stop. Despite music that's more ho-hum than hummable, Brooks's lyrics are bright and witty. Better yet, the book ... does a great job, with the assistance of co-writer Thomas Meehan, in transferring the original script to the stage."[32]

The Daily Telegraph said that "Susan Stroman directs and choreographs with her usual wit and invention," but also mentioned that "you cannot escape the impression that everyone is working desperately hard to animate essentially weak material, and the show fatally lacks that touch of the sublime that made The Producers so special."[33]

Despite mixed reviews from New York critics, Young Frankenstein was generally popular with audiences, with one attendee saying that although it didn't outdo the film, it's a "fantastic [show] for those new to Broadway".[34] The production won a Broadway.com Audience Award for Favorite New Broadway Musical.[35]

When describing the audience's reaction, Brooks said, "I love what they do. The audience knows 'Young Frankenstein' the movie; they didn't know 'The Producers.' They all neigh when anyone on stage says 'Frau Blucher.' And they can't wait for the Blind Hermit to spill the hot soup on the monster's lap. It's great to see the audience play ping-pong with the actors."[36]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Original Broadway production[edit]

Year Award Category Nominee Result Ref
2008 Tony Award Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical Christopher Fitzgerald Nominated N/A
Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical Andrea Martin Nominated
Best Scenic Design of a Musical Robin Wagner Nominated
Drama Desk Award Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical Christopher Fitzgerald Nominated [37]
Shuler Hensley Nominated
Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical Andrea Martin Nominated
Outstanding Lyrics Mel Brooks Nominated
Outstanding Choreography Susan Stroman Nominated
Outer Critics Circle Award Best Musical Won [38]
Best Score Mel Brooks Nominated
Best Actor in a Musical Roger Bart Nominated
Best Featured Actor in a Musical Christopher Fitzgerald Nominated
Shuler Hensley Nominated
Best Director of a Musical Susan Stroman Nominated
Drama League Award Distinguished Production of a Musical Nominated [39]
Distinguished Performance Roger Bart Nominated
Sutton Foster Nominated
Broadway.com Audience Award Favorite New Broadway Musical Won [40]
Favorite Leading Actor in a Broadway Musical Roger Bart Won
Favorite Featured Actor in a Broadway Musical Christopher Fitzgerald Won
Favorite Featured Actress in a Broadway Musical Megan Mullally Won
Favorite Onstage Pair Roger Bart and Sutton Foster Won
2009 Grammy Award Best Musical Theater Album Nominated [41]

Original US National Tour production[edit]

Year Award Category Nominee Result Ref
2011 San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Award Best Production Nominated [42]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Mel Brooks Thinks It Time for Frankenstein to Dance". New Zealand Herald. April 10, 2006. Retrieved 2007-07-04. 
  2. ^ "Hensley and Bart Put on the Ritz on the Road in Young Frankenstein", playbill.com, September 29, 2009
  3. ^ "Chenoweth, Hensley, Kudisch to Star in October Workshop of Young Frankenstein". Playbill News. September 6, 2006. Retrieved 2007-07-04. 
  4. ^ "It's FRAHN-ken-steen: Brian D'Arcy James Nabs Lead Role in Young Frankenstein Workshop", playbill.com, Oct. 18, 2006
  5. ^ "Leachman to Return for Young Frankenstein Musical". Contact Music. August 11, 2006. Retrieved 2007-07-04. 
  6. ^ Axed 'Dancing' star Cloris Leachman may reprise 'Frankenstein' role
  7. ^ Leachman to Go 'Dancing' with YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN?
  8. ^ Brantley, Ben."Who Put the Trance in Transylvania?",The New York Times, November 9, 2007
  9. ^ Puttin’ on the Ritz (and the understudy) – The Stage – October 23, 2007 Retrieved October 25, 2007
  10. ^ 'Frankenstein' a monster production - Variety - October 19, 2007
  11. ^ playbill.com article, "Wicked, Jersey Boys and Young Frankenstein Are Tops on Cast Albums Chart", January 10, 2008
  12. ^ Leavel, Ragusa and Sullivan Join 'Frankenstein' This Summer - broadwayworld.com June 23, 2008
  13. ^ Headlines: Cory English Tapped to Play Igor in Young Frankenstein
  14. ^ Young Frankenstein Will Tour Starting in Fall 2009
  15. ^ Jones, Kenneth."Together Again: Bart and Hensley Will Tour in Young Frankenstein," playbill.com, July 30, 2009
  16. ^ Gray, Channing."Theatre Review:'Young Frankenstein' "The Providence Journal, October 3, 2009
  17. ^ Young Frankenstein Cast
  18. ^ Official Site youngfrankensteinthemusical.com
  19. ^ "Thousands pack Stanley for 'Young Frankenstein' performance" wktv.com (Utica), September 28, 2011
  20. ^ "Cast list" youngfrankensteinthemusical.com
  21. ^ Synopsis sources:Herald.net, 8/25/07 and Variety, 8/26/07
  22. ^ BWW Reviews: Frankenstein Junior, divertimento "mostruoso" al Brancaccio di Roma, la recensione di BroadwayWorld.com.
  23. ^ Foster's Roll in the Hay in Young Frankenstein Is Over July 6
  24. ^ Leavel Will Join Young Frankenstein a Week Early
  25. ^ Transylvanian Trio: Leavel, Ragusa, Sullivan to Join Young Frankenstein
  26. ^ Hump Day: Cory English Is Young Frankenstein's New Igor, Starting Nov. 25
  27. ^ NATIONAL TOUR 2009/2010
  28. ^ Hodgins, Paul.'Young Frankenstein' musical is no classic but delivers the laughs ocregister.com, September 15, 2010
  29. ^ Time November 9, 2007
  30. ^ Daily News, November 9, 2007
  31. ^ New York Times, November 9, 2007
  32. ^ New York Post, November 9, 2007
  33. ^ The Daily Telegraph, November 9, 2007
  34. ^ Audience Reviews. BroadwayBox.
  35. ^ 2008 Broadway.com Audience Award Winners; "Young Franenstein" Tops List
  36. ^ 'Young Frankenstein' comes alive with music | Mel Brooks musical coming to Milwaukee
  37. ^ playbill article, April 28, 2008, "Drama Desk Nominees Announced; Catered Affair Garners 12 Noms"
  38. ^ Playbill News: Young Frankenstein Tops Outer Critics Circle Awards Nominations
  39. ^ Playbill News: 2007-08 Drama Leuage Award Nominations Announced
  40. ^ 2008 Broadway.com Audience Award Winners; "Young Franenstein" Tops List
  41. ^ Gypsy, In the Heights, Mermaid, Pacific and Frankenstein Are Grammy-Nominated
  42. ^ [1] playbill.com

External links[edit]