Frankenstein is let loose in Cleveland's Playhouse Square, but the only thing to fear is mediocrity
Issue date: 10/30/09 Section: Focus
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Hopefully Mel Brooks will decide to leave that franchise alone.
The New Mel Brooks Musical: Young Frankenstein, playing now at Playhouse Square, doesn't have much going for it. Sure, the cast is good and the music is good and the set is good and the energy is good. But, that is its problem: it doesn't possess anything beyond "good" or anything that is brilliantly original to make it a must-see show.
Roger Bart is charismatic, if not entirely convincing, in his role as (young) Dr. Frankenstein. Bart may have originated the role on Broadway, but his performance is more Snoopy than morally ambiguous song and dance man. Although he has been shunning his past, Dr. "Fronkensteen" needs to travel back to his ancestral homeland of Transylvania Heights to claim his inheritance. While there, he decides to speak almost entirely in innuendos and "resurrect" his grandfather's research. A monster is born, havoc ensues, and a happy ending is had by all.
There's everything you would expect from a musical adaptation of the film: lots of innuendo, cringeworthy wordplay and Frau Blücher's whinnying horses. But, Mel Brooks' script is not written for a generation of South Park viewers who have become accustomed to intelligent social satire. Brooks is writing for the over sixty-five crowd that fondly remembers his work on assorted variety shows and Get Smart.
Instead of having several memorable songs, Frankenstein's entire soundtrack is a blurred pastiche of every successful musical in the past forty years. Expect no odes to the joys of celibacy as several numbers would cause Hugh Hefner to blush at their forwardness. Sure, "Please Don't Touch Me" and "He Vas My Boyfriend" are entertaining, but there is only so far before the show crosses from hysterically suggestive to flat.