Charmingly raunchy romp Young Frankenstein is treading the boards once more at the Garrick Theatre, bringing the cult classic film back to life in a lively, light-hearted musical medley.
Starring Hadley Fraser, Lesley Joseph, Cory English, Dianne Pilkington, Summer Strallen, Patrick Clancy and Nic Greenshields alongside an excellent supporting cast, this theatrical adaptation of the film distills the script down into just the key events/moments and turns them into what I would almost describe as sketches. A succinct slice of the storyline set to music.
This, of course, is not so great if you’ve never seen the film and booked tickets to see the musical because of a general love of horror or a devotion to Cory English, but if you do know the film, the opportunity is there to enjoy it in a new, differently funny, engaging way and if the mood is right there’s even some scope to join in, in a Rocky-Horror-Picture-Show-esque way. Well, the original 1970’s cinema/theatre Rocky Horror experience anyway.
Because of this almost interactive nature, the cast were seemingly prepared to deal with a few good-natured heckles and they were equally able to embrace a high-quality heckle as to rebuff drunken drivel, which was good to see. And surprising in a way because I very much got the feeling that the entire production had been timed to perfection and keeping a little space for the unknown must have been challenging.
And there were a few challenging people present. Slightly off topic, I have to say, I’ve never been to a show where more people were chatting and generally being rude and, for the performers to have brushed this off the way they did is to their credit. I confess that my partner and I were less composed and shushed several people seemingly doing their shopping list or some such trivial nonsense mid-show.
Coming back to the timing of the production, I feel it really is worth saying again; it seemed to be timed to perfection. The precise stage movements were intertwined with live (but sadly out of sight) orchestral accompaniment right down, on occasion, to individual foot movements. That element of the music was very well written, and the performance was of a quality to match.
The production values overall were of equal standing and there was nothing to fault in the staging, the quality of acting, singing or, the lighting and other effects. We were treated to lightning, fireworks, exploding light-bulbs, breaking walls, secret passageways and more. In good measure. All timed and placed to a ‘T’.
Given this high-quality production and exceptional choreography (I genuinely can’t find fault with it anywhere), I found myself surprisingly unfulfilled upon leaving the theatre and it took some time for me to work out why. The answer, in my case at least, is that in producing the show in almost sketch form, the opportunity for character development and emotional change has been lost. Not that that makes it a bad piece by any stretch of the imagination. It does, however, lend itself much more heavily to those who already have a strong affinity with the plot and the characters and those more casual attendees may find themselves a little left out, perhaps.
Another effect of the reduced development of the characters is that without the emotional arcs, the songs themselves were arguably quite middle of the road. The great highs and lows of the classic musical had no space to appear and the romp from event to event had a static, chirpy almost Tom and Jerry feel to it that was perfectly fine. But not more than that.
There were some exceptional moments in this production and the quality of performance was of a level that more than deserved the standing ovation that was given at the end. It’s a small shame that this piece was targeted so firmly at the cult followers as I feel it could possibly have been a cult hit in its own right.
Review by Damien Russell
From the brains behind The Producers, Blazing Saddles and Spaceballs. Legendary filmmaker and comedian Mel Brooks brings his musical comedy Young Frankenstein to life on stage in an all-singing, all-dancing musical collaboration with Tony-award winning Broadway director and choreographer Susan Stroman.
2 Charing Cross Road
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