Theatre ReviewsTom Williams

Young Frankenstein

Book by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehanyoungfrankensteinlogo

Music and Lyrics by Mel Brooks

Directed & Choreographed by Susan Stroman

Music Direction by Glen Kelly

At the Cadillac Palace Theatre – Chicago Theatre District

Wickedly funny Mel Brooks musical spoof hits all the right notes

I am a huge Mel Brooks fan–I’d laugh if he recited the phone book! I loved all his funny films–with Young Frankenstein among his best until I saw the opening night of the first national tour of Young Frankenstein which began with a six week run at the Palace Theatre here in Chicago. Anchored by Roger Bart (Dr. Frederick Frankenstein) and Shuler Hensley (The Monster) from the original Broadway cast, Young Frankenstein is rollicking, high energy, super hilarious Broadway musical true to the film. It is a most satisfying show rich in clever dancing (choreographed By Susan Stroman), fine singing with loads of funny zingers, bits, physical comedy as it satirizes and pays homage to the best vaudeville traditions. Brooks has fun with Shelly’s novel, Frankenstein, and the Boris Karloff 1931 film.

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Mel Brooks once again (like The Producers) has a show with tremendous audience appeal (it got mixed reviews on Broadway) but it should do better on tour. The opening night audience laughed heartily and applauded vigorously throughout. Brooks’ structured Young Frankenstein in the best Broadway traditions leaning heavily on vaudevillian Borscht-Belt elements. Brooks proves that he is a terrific song writer mixing tune-full melodies, many parodies of other Broadway shows, with witty, often satirical show specific lyrics. There doesn’t seem to be a musical style that Brooks can parody. From haunting ballads to uptempo dance numbers, Brooks keeps the show fresh and moving. Susan Stoman’s direction and choreography garbed all the laughs with loads of heart from Brooks and Meehan’s clever book.

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As much as I enjoyed Roger Bart channeling Gen Wilder and Shuler Hansley’s take on The Monster, this production owes much to Cory English as Igor, the Doctor’s servant. English is quite funny, can sing and dance as he succeeds much as Marty Feldman did in the film. Joanna Glushak as Frau Blucher and Anne Horak as Inga added outstanding work as did the fine ensemble with deft dancing and funny bits and pieces. In a Mel Brooks’ show, the humor comes from everything and everywhere.

Hensley and Bart

There are several show-stoppers but nothing hits home finer than Stroman’s staging of the great Irving Berlin ode to Fred Astaire–the magic tap number “Puttin’ on the Ritz.” This was a dazzling, toe-tapping and quite funny rendition of a classic tune that left audiences howling in both the movie and on stage in the show. You’d be hard pressed to find finer staging and choreography of a dance number than Susan Stroman’s design.

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Young Frankenstein is a slick production, rich in vivid costumes, stellar lighting with impressive sets to augment the comic acting, fine vocals and the polished dances that together with Brooks’ irreverent satire combine to offer a large-scale and most satisfying night at the theatre. This is a wacky old-time structured Broadway Musical from a mad genius that is pure escapist fun. We all need some fun and Young Frankenstein delivers boat loads of gags. If you loved the movie–then you’ll love the musical even more. Don’t miss this show.

Highly Recommended

Tom Williams

At the Cadillac Palace Theatre, 24 W. Randolph, Cchicago, IL, Call 800-775-2000,, tickets $30 -$95, Tuesdays at 7:30 pm, Wednesdays at 2 & 7:30 pm, Thursdays at 7:30 pm, Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 2 & 8 pm, Sundays at 2 pm, running time is 2 hours, 40 minutes with intermission.

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