Review: Young Frankenstein, at Garrick Theatre

Friday, 20th October 2017 — By Stephen Griffin

Lesley Joseph Credit Manuel Harlan

Lesley Joseph in Young Frankenstein. Photo: Manuel Harlan

FIRST performed on Broadway to mixed reviews in 2007, this musical adaptation of Mel Brooks’ 1974 horror spoof has been pruned and reworked to accommodate the more modest – and, according to Mel, comedy-friendly – space the Garrick has to offer.

And that’s a pretty astute move.

Despite its cinematic roots, Brooks’ 12 Tony Award-busting spectacular The Producers was essentially a theatrical confection and therefore benefited from the much larger Theatre Royal. Young Frankenstein is a very different kettle of fish – with its monochrome cinematography, optical wipes and dissolves and use of the original Boris Karloff lab equipment, it’s very much a movie.

Hadley Fraser and Shuler Hensley in Young Frankenstein. Photo: Manuel Harlan

So how does it fare on stage?

A bit like Spamalot, the Monty Python musical, fans of the film will not be disappointed – all the familiar lines are present and correct – but there’s no shortage of new material, not least 15 hilarious freshly minted songs.

The plot, however, remains the same. It’s basically the Karloff/Rathbone/Lugosi movie, Son of Frankenstein – the doctor’s sprog stumbles upon dad’s old lab and decides to create his own monster. With added song and dance numbers.

Susan Stroman’s high-energy production opts for fairly simple, but ingenious, design, allowing the performances to shine. And shine they do. Lesley Joseph’s Frau Blucher and Ross Noble’s Igor are a revelation, but for me Dianne Pilkington’s high-maintenance fiancée Elizabeth steals the show.

Yes, it’s silly. Yes, it’s slight. Yes, it has no message to deliver. But, boy, it’s joyous!

As Brooks’ movie posters used to proclaim: In Mel We Trust. It’s good to know that now in his 91st year that still holds true.

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