The Monster is back, and he’s written a musical about Frankenstein.
Now in his 80s, Mel Brooks is one of the most enduring American comedy icons. Having scored huge with irreverent blockbuster movies like The Producers and Blazing Saddles,
Brooks’ new song and dance version of Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel is a campy tuneful gagfest. Young Frankenstein is his first stage musical.
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According to the man who plays the monster, Brooks is as brilliant a musician as he is a comedian.
“Mel was originally a jazz drummer, and his jokes always have perfect rhythm,” explains Shuler Hensley at the Princess of Wales Theatre.
“He’s completely suited to write musical theatre. For his films, he wrote all his own music. I think he’s always wanted to write an Old School musical like this one.”
Loosely adapted from his Oscar-nominated 1974 film, Young Frankenstein, this production is about a New York brain surgeon who inherits a castle and laboratory in Transylvania. The farcical humour is combined with the song and dance numbers packed with rude hilarity. Imagine "Springtime for Hitler" (from The Producers) except about body parts.
“It’s amazing to see it all come together live, those songs in that comedy style that Brooks invented,” says Edmonton-born actress and dancer Shauna Hoskin.
“There are things happening in this show I’ve never seen anywhere else, like a version of Putting On The Ritz where everyone dances with their own shadow. New things keep happening but in combinations that are hilarious and seem timeless.”
Brooks has always been brutally funny and funnily brutal, and this production takes the same kinds of risks he took in his most famous films, like how he made a Nazi a comic character in The Producers. He’s never been politically correct and he always seems to do exactly whatever he wants.
So it’s a bit of a mystery why Brooks waited so long to write for the stage.
“I think music has always been Mel’s true passion,” says Shuler, whose diverse stage credits include the lead in both Phantom of the Opera and the atonal opera Wozzeck. “Music and comedy is in wonderful balance here. It’s all about setting up the big juicy jokes.”
Young Frankenstein is directed and choreographed by five-time Tony Award winner Susan Stroman. Roger Bart stars as the doctor.
This production continues at Princess of Wales Theatre until April 18.