Young Frankenstein is one of my favorites of all time! "What hump?" ^^
6:34 a.m. November 6, 2007
NEW YORK – Mel Brooks may have created a monster in the expectations for “Young Frankenstein,” a musical comedy that opens Thursday in his first return to Broadway since “The Producers.”
With “The Producers,” Brooks took a forgotten 1968 movie comedy and turned it into a surprise smash hit that ran for six years on Broadway until last April.
Now Brooks is using a similar formula with “Young Frankenstein,” an adaptation of the 1974 movie starring Gene Wilder and Peter Boyle that is one of the most beloved works in the funnyman's 58-year career in television and movies.
“Lightning rarely strikes twice in any business and certainly that's true on Broadway,” said Michael Riedel, host of the “Theater Talk” television show and theater columnist for the New York Post.
Reserving judgment, some experts believe word-of-mouth will ultimately determine the success of the show, but they agree ”Young Frankenstein” will be the most anticipated event of the fall season.
“Musicals either please the audience or they don't. They are not reliant on reviews. They are only to some extent reliant on stars, and this one doesn't have any big stars,” said Seth Gelblum, who heads one of the top Broadway and commercial theater practices in New York at Loeb & Loeb.
“It will be completely reliant on how the audience reacts,” he said.
Director Susan Stroman, who also directed “The Producers” on Broadway and in the subsequent remake of the film, said comparisons will be inevitable, but that she tried not to think about repeating that commercial success.
“When I start rehearsal I immerse myself in the material,” Stroman told Reuters in a telephone interview. “I sort of dive into a swimming pool of talented artists and designers, and I don't come up for air until opening night. I feel like I've delivered, and I'll just have to take what comes.”
The stage version revives gags from the movie but adds new material from Brooks, largely song-and-dance routines.
Perhaps the most anticipated scene will be the one based on the musical number from the film, when the scientist Frederick Frankenstein, played by Roger Bart, and his monster tap-dance to “Puttin' on the Ritz,” an Irving Berlin song contemporaneous with the 1930s setting of “Young Frankenstein.”
“The 1930s is a great time in which to choreograph, so I couldn't wait to get my hands on 'Puttin' on the Ritz,'” said Stroman, who billed the scene as a “huge production number.”
Actor Shuler Hensley, who plays the monster, knows his performance will be compared to that of Boyle, who died in December, despite all the new songs.
“You can't get the images Gene Wilder or Peter Boyle out of your head. With that said, you just sort of just go up there and enjoy the material,” Shuler said.
Wilder shared screenwriting credits for the movie with Brooks but did not collaborate on the musical. Stroman said he approved when he attended one of the previews last week.
“I sat behind him and it was very emotional. He laughed at all the old stuff but he absolutely roared at all the new jokes,” Stroman said.
Whether the ticket-buyers laugh remains to be seen.
Riedel said his fellow critics may be a tough audience.
“Brooks is setting himself up for a big fall mainly because he's charging $450 for the best seats in the house,” said Riedel, though most seats sell for the more typical $120. “He's basically told the critics this is a $450 show. That's setting the bar very, very high.”
(Editing by Jackie Frank)