Saturday, November 17, 2007

Young Frankenstein

Photo/Paul Kolnik

From the "there, wolf" visual pun that appears during a hay ride through a computer-generated forest to Igor's admission (after an oddly enunciated phrase) that he doesn't know why he's talking like that, it seems obvious that nobody really knows how any of the humor in the show actually got there. Sure, some was scavenged from the film version, by producers (Mel Brooks among them) operating like gravediggers in the night, and some came from a roulette wheel of sight gags spun by Susan Stroman, marching around like angry villagers, wielding torches, pitchforks, and whatever else they could get their hands on. But the score is incredibly weak, the talents of comic actresses (like Andrea Martin) and fabulous dancer/everythings (Sutton Foster) are put to waste, and few of the highly budgeted special effects offer anything that hasn't been seen on stage already (the trembling double-vision of a dream-sequence segue stands out as an exceptional visual moment). Even Roger Bart, as Frederick Frankenstein, brings little to the role beyond his wooden affability, shrill shrieks of astonishment, and quick little tongue (the patter of "The Brain" is one of the few songs that actually sticks, along with "Listen to Your Heart"). Diversions, like the Hermit and his "Please Send Me Someone," jut out of the framework because a suitable context hasn't been found for them, and too much of the stage version is disconnected from the plot itself. Musical theater needs to be more elegant than putting together Ikea furniture: it can't just be banged together by people too busy to follow the directions.

[Also blogged by: Patrick]

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