Young Frankenstein (musical)
|Book||Mel Brooks |
by Gene Wilder
|Productions||2007 Seattle (tryout)|
2009 United States tour
2011 United States tour
2017 West End
2018 United Kingdom tour
|Awards||Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Musical|
Young Frankenstein (promoted 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. 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 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.
After the success of his 2001 musical, The Producers, based on Brooks's earlier film of the same name, Brooks decided 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) featured Brian d'Arcy James as Dr. Frankenstein, Kristin Chenoweth as Elizabeth, Sutton Foster as Inga, Roger Bart as Igor, Marc Kudisch as Inspector Kemp, and Shuler Hensley as the Monster.
Cloris Leachman, reprising her film role as Frau Blucher, also attended the table read, and at the time it was widely reported she would be offered the role of Blucher for the stage show. 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 Blucher after Beth Leavel left the production. However, the production closed before Leachman could take over the role.
Seattle tryout and Broadway (2007–2009)
Young Frankenstein began previews on Broadway on October 11, 2007, and opened on November 8 at the Lyric 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. 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 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. The producers indicated that they planned to buck the usual Broadway practice by not reporting Box Office returns.
First National Tour A touring production of the show began in September 2009 at the Providence Performing Arts Center, Providence, Rhode Island. 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).
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 DiVita as Elizabeth, and Synthia Link as Inga. English and Glushak continued to play the roles they originated on tour.
Second National Tour The show re-opened for a second National Tour on September 30, 2011, at the Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts in Worcester, Massachusetts. 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), and Britt Hancock (Inspector Kemp).
Newcastle tryout and West End (2017–2018)
The show made its UK premiere at the Newcastle Theatre Royal from August 26 to September 9, 2017, before transferring to London's West End at the Garrick Theatre, where it began previews on September 28 and opened on October 10. The production was directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman, featured set design by Beowulf Boritt, costume design by William Ivey Long, lighting design by Ben Cracknell, sound design by Gareth Owen, and Andrew Hilton as musical director with Glen Kelly as musical supervisor. It was produced by Brooks, Michael Harrison, Fiery Angel, and Hani Farsi.
This production is a reworked version of the Broadway production, which features changes to some of the lyrics and book by Brooks and Meehan. For example, the "Transylvanian Lullaby Theme" from the original film by John Morris is used throughout, such as during the Overture, "The Experiment", "Frederick's Soliloquy", and the exit music. Some songs and scenes were cut, including "The Happiest Town" (making the musical start with "The Brain" after the Overture), "Join The Family Business" (cutting Frederick's dream sequence entirely), "Life, Life", and most of "Man About Town". The dialogue after "Surprise" is cut, ending the scene at the end of the song. Brooks wrote some new numbers, such as "It Could Work" (sung by Frederick, Igor, Inga, and Blucher upon discovering Victor's notes) and "Hang Him Till His Dead" (replacing "The Law"). The character of Mr. Hiltop is cut during "The Brain", and instead Frederick performs his demonstration on one of the students, Bertram Batram. The production is also notably reworked for intimate venues such as the Garrick Theatre to work as a vaudeville piece, unlike the larger scaled Broadway production.
On April 21, the initial casting was announced, including Hadley Fraser as Frederick Frankenstein, Ross Noble as Igor, Lesley Joseph as Frau Blucher, Dianne Pilkington as Elisabeth, Summer Strallen as Inga, and Patrick Clancy as Inspector Kemp. Shuler Hensley reprised his role as the Monster from the original Broadway and North American tour productions. Nic Greenshields succeeded Hensley in the role of the Monster beginning November 20, 2017. Cory English succeeded Noble in the role of Igor beginning February 12, 2018, reprising the role from the Broadway and North American tour productions.
The Original London Cast Recording featuring 23 tracks was released on August 10, 2018, which was recorded live over several performances (although it is labeled as the "Original London Cast Recording", the album features Nic Greenshields as The Monster, who replaced Shuler Hensley). A UK Tour was announced at the same time for late 2019; however, this never occurred and no explanation was ever provided.
The West End production closed on August 25, 2018, after 11 months.
Live television production (2020)
Synopsis of original Broadway production
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 embarrassed to be a Frankenstein, insisting his name be pronounced "Fronkensteen" and that he is not a madman but a scientist. He teaches 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 overjoyed to meet Frederick. Igor tries to convince him to continue in his grandfather's footsteps ("Together Again"); he has already hired the services of Inga, a yodeling lab assistant with a degree in Laboratory Science from the local community college. After a wagon ride to Castle Frankenstein ("Roll in the Hay"), they meet the mysterious Frau Blucher, 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, followed shortly by Igor, 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 Blucher, who tells of her past 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 asks 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, secretly replacing it with another. Frederick creates the creature ("Life, Life"), who goes on a violent rampage shortly after waking. The doctor is dismayed 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 Blucher frees the Monster without letting Frederick know. Panic ensues as the monster breaks free from the stage and runs through the audience.
The town begins to search for the Monster, with Frau Blucher trying to bring him back with music from her violin, but to no avail ("He's Loose"). Inga talks to the anxious doctor ("Listen to Your Heart"). Frau Blucher 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 tells her that no funny business was taking place. Meanwhile, the Monster finds a blind hermit named Harold after breaking through the wall of his house ("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 pained into another wild 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 handsome man 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 is scared when some stage lights explode. Elizabeth is kidnapped by the creature and is taken to a cave, where he forces himself on her. 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 revive him. Just as the crowd is about to re-hang Frederick and the Monster, Elizabeth arrives with a Bride of Frankenstein hairdo. The Monster proposes to Elizabeth ("Deep Love" (Reprise)) and a happy ending is ahead for all as the moon shines high on the newly engaged Doctor and Inga ("Finale Ultimo").
Differences from the original film
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 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.
Broadway song list
- *Note: "The Law" and the reprises of "He Vas My Boyfriend" and "He's Loose" are not included on the cast recording.
London song list
|Role||Original Broadway production
|First US National Tour
|Original London production
|Frederick Frankenstein||Roger Bart||Hadley Fraser|
|Elizabeth||Megan Mullally||Beth Curry||Dianne Pilkington|
|Inga||Sutton Foster||Synthia Lirk||Summer Strallen|
|The Monster||Shuler Hensley|
|Frau Blucher||Andrea Martin||Joanna Glushak||Lesley Joseph|
|Igor||Christopher Fitzgerald||Cory English||Ross Noble|
|Inspector Kemp / Hermit||Fred Applegate||Brad Oscar||Patrick Clancy|
Broadway replacement cast
- Kelly Sullivan replaced Sutton Foster as "Inga" on July 8, 2008.
- Beth Leavel replaced Andrea Martin as "Frau Blucher" on July 15, 2008.
- Michele Ragusa replaced Megan Mullally as Elizabeth on August 5, 2008.
- Cory English replaced Christopher Fitzgerald as "Igor" on November 25, 2008.
London replacement cast
The Broadway orchestrations by Doug Besterman call for a large twenty-four-piece orchestra, including three violins, two violas, two violoncelli, three trumpets, two trombones, two French horns, four woodwinds, three keyboards, one drum set, one percussionist, and one bass.
The London orchestrations, also by Besterman, have been scaled down for a ten-piece orchestra.
Young Frankenstein generally received mixed critical reviews and was often compared to The Producers, a 2001 adaptation of another Mel Brooks film. Ben Brantley of 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."
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' 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."
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."
The production won a Broadway.com Audience Award for Favorite New Broadway Musical.
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."
Major awards and nominations
Original Broadway production
Original US national tour
|2011||San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Award||Best Production||Nominated|||
Original West End production
|2018||Laurence Olivier Awards||Best Actor in a Supporting Role in a Musical||Ross Noble||Nominated|||
|Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Musical||Lesley Joseph||Nominated|
|Best New Musical||Nominated|
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The plot features Frederick (Hadley Fraser), the grandson of Dr Frankenstein, ending up in Transylvania Heights, in 1934, and building another monster (Shuler Hensley).
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