I guess you’ll either love or hate the crude humour of Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein, currently at The Garrick Theatre London. Think Carry On or Benny Hill. Think corny jokes about women bewitched by men who are large down below and men hypnotised by women who are large up top.
Personally I loved it. It takes a comic genius like Brooks to turn what could seem base and old fashioned into good-hearted fun. And, despite being primarily a movie maker, he knows how to write a stage musical. The Producers was a huge hit and Young Frankenstein, again based on one of his movies, deserves to be.
Mel Brooks has a way of creating hilarious characters and putting very funny words in their mouths. Those words come thick and fast so, if some jokes miss the target, there’s a hit close behind. Brooks’ view of male-female relationships may seem like a relic from the past but the conflict between ego and id is eternal. So the theme of men and women having their ideals undermined by their animal desires is the stuff of great comedy.
Take the number Please Don’t Touch Me, led by Dianne Pilkington, as an example. It contrasts hilariously Frankenstein’s fiancee’s prim behaviour with her filthy mind.
Lots of laughs from Ross Noble and Lesley Joseph
All the song-and-dance numbers are superbly choreographed in classic style by the director Susan Stroman including a wonderful version of Puttin’ On The Ritz.
The cast may change but there is enough meat for any good performer to get their teeth into. Having said that, I’ve nothing but praise for the current team. Hadley Fraser has the biggest part (you see how Brooks’ humour is catching). He is spot on as the high-minded Frederick Frankenstein.Summer Strallen, who was outstanding in Top Hat, shows why she is one the best musicals performers around. They’re a lovely pair- Fraser and Strallen, I mean (damn you, Mel Brooks!).Lesley Joseph and Ross Noble get lots of laughs as the servants. (Sorry, I’ve run out of sexual innuendos.)
The stereotypes of men and women are dated but if you can accept that, Young Frankenstein is a lot of fun.