As Hallowe’en approaches, everyone starts feeling ghoulish and as the night’s draw in, curling up with a good horror film seems like the perfect night in. Mel Brooks‘ horror film parody Young Frankenstein came out in 1974 and was one of the highest grossing films of the year,
So, for fans of musicals and freaky Fridays, Young Frankenstein may be just what you’re looking for. Frederick Frankenstein (pronounced Frarnkensteen) is nothing like his grandfather. Not at all. But when his grandfather dies, he disappears to Transylvania (of course) to settle accounts and claim his inheritance. When he arrives, he stumbles on the infamous laboratory and suddenly his grandfather doesn’t seem quite as crazy as he first thought…
Let’s be clear, this is a very silly show, but it’s also a brilliant one. It’s very, very funny, although the humour is old-fashioned and quite British in its nature (dodgy accents, euphemisms and sex) And yes, some of the jokes wouldn’t feel out of place in a pantomime, but it’s fast-paced and the energy is high.
The cast is fantastic. Summer Strallen (Inga) proves she’s also a comedienne as she flirts outrageously with the young Frankenstein (Hadley Fraser), especially during the song Roll In The Hay, while Leslie Joseph channels both Mrs Danvers and Morticia as the housekeeper with a secret and her song He Vas My Boyfriend is touching yet funny.
Ross Noble is perfect as Igor, surprisingly discreet in his comic acting, but with excellent facial expressions. His duet Together Again with Fraser is classic, traditional comedy, evoking Morecambe and Wise… and the duo from Pete’s Dragon. Dianne Pilkington‘s character seems strangely out of place, but she gives a fantastic performance and the song Please Don’t Touch Me is as funny as it’s cringeworthy – although the line ‘Tits! Tits! Tits!’ should perhaps be left to the likes of Molly Wobbly…
The numerous scenery changes do detract from the show slightly, but for the most party they’re done quickly and smoothly. Considering the musical hit Broadway ten years ago, there are surprisingly few changes for the West End and plenty of nods to The Addams Family, the Rocky Horror Show, Spamalot… and Top Hat.
It’s definitely a midweek show, rather than a weekend blockbuster, and probably not for the faint hearted (or the politically correct), as it’s quite crude and full of euphemisms (what’s not to like?), although it does have a moral.
That said, Young Frankenstein is an evening of harmless fun that warrants its standing ovation.
Reviewed by Michaela Clement-Hayes
Photo: Manuel Harlan