‘Young Frankenstein’ Looks like a Hit in Chicago

frankenstein1They are “Puttin’ on the Ritz” at the Cadillac Palace Theatre in Chicago, and Frankenstein’s monster never looked better. The national tour of the Mel Brooks musical “Young Frankenstein” is hanging out in that gloomy castle in Transylvania Heights through Dec. 13, and all the old familiar pals from Brooks’s 1974 film comedy are there to entertain us.

The show flopped on Broadway, but it opened Wednesday, Nov. 4, to cheers and tears-down-the-cheeks kind of laughter. The songs were pure Brooks, full of sly innuendo and shamelessly traversed musical theater genres. We heard “There is Nothing Like the Brain,” the weepy prayer-like blockbuster “Someone” and the 1930s sophisticated Cole Porter-style love song “Listen to Your Heart.”

frankenstein2Reprising their Broadway roles were Roger Bart as Professor Frederick Frankenstein, complete with curly hair like Gene Wilder from the movie, and Shuler Hensley as the monster, who’s playing the Palace with manic energy and is every bit as good as Peter Boyle.

The cast came very close to being clones of the movie characters, with Cory English taking the Marty Feldman role as the hunchback Igor and Anne Horak in the Teri Garr role as the sweet-faced Transylvanian blonde. Joanna Glushak could have been chanelling Cloris Leachman as the comically creepy Frau Blucher, and don’t worry, horses still whinny every time her name is mentioned. Beth Curry has the Madeline Kahn role and hams it up accordingly.

Brad Oscar takes two parts, the Transylvania police inspector and the blind hermit, which wasn’t revealed until he took his bow. His rendition of “Someone” was part Al Jolson, part Bobby Darin.

{loadposition incontent_entertainment}Every joke from the movie has been preserved, from “What knockers!’ to “Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life,” while the lines “Roll in the hay” and “He vas my boyfriend” have become full-fledged songs.

frankenstein3The musical does have an additional scene. In a dream sequence young Dr. Frankenstein’s grandfather appears like Jacob Marley—though better dressed—and urges his grandson to “Join the Family Business” of bringing the dead back to life.

The production boasted some deft stagecraft, including thunder, lightning and plenty of electronic gizmos in Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory. Best of all, however, was a giant puppet of the monster, which materialized almost magically during the first number.

And did we mention the dancing? The show fairly popped with musical numbers, and the chorus line moved easily from Transylvanian villagers in wild Tyrolian costume to slick tap dancers wearing top hats, white ties and tails for “Puttin’ on the Ritz.”

This show is not for children. Mel Brooks is known for his double entrendre, and on stage he has more even leeway. Elizabeth’s song after she has been ravished by the monster is titled “Deep Love.” You get the idea. And the F-word is used twice.

frankenstein4Still there is a lot of talent on that stage, and the show has plenty of over-the-top laughs.

Was it as good as the movie? Visit the Cadillac Palace and decide for yourself.