Thursday, May 6, 2010

Review: "Young Frankenstein" Road company @Benedum

You’re bound to have a lot of fun at Mel Brooks’ musical version of Young Frankenstein. A classy national traveling company has stopped off here with it for a few days and the show looks and sounds great. You may think that you already know what to expect if you’ve seen the famed 1974 movie on which it’s based. And according to people who know the film so well that they can recite dialogue from it, this stage adaptation is more a replica than a new take. For some audiences that’s swell. If you aren’t one of the already converted, you’ll find howls and delights aplenty. But if, like me, you sort of remember the movie, you’ll discover stuff you don’t remember and get those kicks. Are there new gags? I don’t know. Who cares?

Of course, this isn’t the movie. How could it be? It’s got songs and dances.

Nah, the music won’t bowl you over with originality. Mel Brooks wrote generic melodies, as he did for The Producers on stage. But they serve their cute purpose and create the kind of light entertainment which characterizes a whole bunch of shows of the 1930s. And this is set in that time frame. Plenty of his lyrics sound clever though. Why not? The guy is known for writing funny words. As for the dances, director/choreographer Susan Stroman has come up with plenty of imaginative routines. And, inevitably, made the most of the best song in the whole thing, Irving Berlin’s “Puttin On The Ritz” in a wonderful tap sequence where all of the ensemble is dressed to resemble the Monster, taking his first steps into show biz.

That brings up the subject of costumes. They look great. Remember that many intend to suggest Eastern Europe, somewhere around Transylvania.

Know what else looks great? The sets. The effects.

Particularly get a load of a couple of guys as horses pulling a load of hay. Wonderful style. You want big stuff? OK. There’s a magnificent giant puppet version of the original Monster. Karloff on steroids.

As for the performances, every one has got it together. But especially delight in Roger Bart’s take on young Frederick Frankenstein, the role he originated on Broadway. He’s got charm, he’s got personality, he’s got timing.

Script and text-wise, you might need to know, if you’re considering taking some kids, it’s got bawdy lines and suggestive situations. Uh-oh. And people seem to be smoking. Uh-oh. Lobby warning: strobe lights flash on and off. Uh-oh. And you might need to know that one character is missing an arm and a leg and gets no sympathy. And a person gets hung…uh, hanged.

Ah, yes. Remember the good old days when no such advisories were posted and the actors actually smoked real cigarettes and you could buy Raisinettes in the theater for a nickel and the ushers were younger than you?

Get there quickly while you still have the time.

Young Frankenstein continues through Sunday May 9th at 6:30 at Benedum Center
412- 456-6666 and/or

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