Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Young Frankenstein

Tonight I went to see Mel Brooks' new world premiere musical Young Frankenstein at the Paramount Theatre. In a rare, yet becoming more common, pre-Broadway premiere here in Seattle before it heads to New York, it proved to be all that you would expect from a Broadway musical.

Based on the classic movie created in 1974, it is typical Mel Brooks vaudevillian, often slapstick comedy filled with innuendo, repeating gags, and one-liners. Now, this doesn't typically fall into my preferred comedic genre, but I still found it quite entertaining. As expected, near constant laughter filled the theatre. A Broadway-caliber cast including Megan Mullally, best known as Karen Walker from the sitcom Will & Grace, was one of the headliners, though really only because she was one of the biggest names in the cast. Her actual role was incidental to the plot, and in fact she only was on stage for perhaps one-quarter of the entire 2.5 hour show. The real showstopping performance for me was Andrea Martin, who may not have much name recognition, but made a big name for herself as crazy Aunt Voula in My Big Fat Greek Wedding. She provided and outstanding and absolutely hilarious performance in her supporting role.

The music, also completely composed by Mel Brooks, was as unique as the dialogue. However not particularly diverse in its style. With many recent musicals trying to set themselves apart from others by using unique styles and themes, this was a refreshing return to more traditional musical numbers. The emphasis is on the words, not the music. Though filled with musical numbers, the music isn't what defines this show.

As for the technical aspects of the show, it was probably one of the finest I have ever seen in Seattle. Its Broadway-bound budget was apparent throughout, from the sets to the costumes, and especially in some not-to-be-missed special effects that several times made me believe I was watching a movie, rather than a musical. I had several "how'd they do that?" moments.

And on to my ratings:

Script - 3 stars - I can't say I'm a big fan of this story. The movie has achieved cult-classic status, which is probably the only reason this story was compelled to become a musical.
Cast - 4 stars - This is the epitome of a Broadway cast. With a bonus 5th star to Andrea Martin.
Technical - 5+ stars - One of, if not absolutely, the finest technical production I have seen.
Music - 4 stars - Filled with songs, but none of which meet my primary criteria of being stuck in my head as I left the theatre.
Overall - 4 stars - I can't say I'd pay to see this again. The show wasn't particularly compelling to me. But it was so well produced I can't say it's not worth seeing once.

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