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Theatre Review (LA): The New Mel Brooks Musical Young Frankenstein by Brooks and Meehan at the Pantages

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Does lightning strike twice? Well sort of, at least in the case of A New Mel Brooks Musical Young Frankenstein (yup that’s the title), now playing for a brief run at the Pantages, following the phenomenal success of The Producers, 12 Tony Awards and 2,502 performances in New York City, a successful London production that ran for three years, national tours, many international productions, and a 2005 movie version.

The same creative team that created The Producers Musical, Mel Brooks who wrote the book, music, and lyrics, Thomas Meehan, also credited with the book, Susan Stroman who directed and choreographed The Producers, Robin Wagner who created the magnificent sets, William Ivey Long who has created some gorgeous costumes, Peter Kaczorowski who did lighting, and Paul Huntley who did the wigs, have once again gathered together to try to turn this Academy Award-Winning movie into a viable stage musical. The Producers was, in some sense, easier because it was about show business while Young Frankenstein was about reanimation of the dead. The results are decidedly mixed.

More often than not the musical manages to delight and provide many laughs, even guffaws. The highlight is the staging of “Puttin’ On The Ritz” which, (because it is related to the stage), is expanded upon and is terrific as the 11 o’clock number. The blind man, memorably played by Gene Hackman in the movie is here played by a Brooks veteran (he took over for Nathan Lane in The Producers and received his own Tony Nomination) Brad Oscar who doubles as the one-legged and one armed Inspector Kemp. His Kemp was alright but Oscar nearly stole the show with his excruciatingly funny  “Please Send Me Someone” and the subsequent scene with Monster Shuler Hensley. Beth Curry as Elizabeth is given two less than stellar numbers but comes into her own in the infamous “Oh Sweet Mystery Of Life” sequence. Anne Horak is a knockout as Inga and proves to be a worthy partner to the talented Roger Bart who is recreating his role as Victor Frankenstein. Joanna Glushak is delicious as Frau Blucher. Cory English is simply sublime as Igor the hunchback, assistant to the good doctor. He gives a brilliant performance.

Much of the show succeeds riding on the memories of the movie and not so much on its translation onto the stage. But as I have pointed out, there is so much to like in this engaging and outrageous musical, these quibbles are not significant. On Broadway the show lasted only 484 performances, but I think the tour will do very well judging from the audience response. It was nice to see Mel Brooks back in his adopted home in Hollywood. Young Frankenstein will run at the Pantages Theatre until Aug 8th.

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