Garrick Theatre, London
So far in 2018, Young Frankenstein is the show which has pleasantly surprised me the most. I must admit, all I knew of the show was the performance I’d seen at the Olivier Awards so I expected a cheesy, ridiculous story that I wouldn’t enjoy. What I got was a cheesy, ridiculous story which I thoroughly enjoyed.
Young Frankenstein is a hilariously brilliant night at the theatre and certainly one of the funniest shows in the West End. Of course, it’s the work of comic genius Mel Brooks so you’d expect greatness, but the show had a less than stellar run on Broadway and despite its huge budget, failed miserably. However, from what I’ve read and been told, this production is scaled down and swifter. The book by Brooks and Thomas Meehan is the most successful aspect of the show, with emphasis solidly on the comedy.
Frederick Frankenstein (pronounced “Fronkensteen”) is an American professor of neurology who is drawn to Transylvania when his grandfather passes away and he is set to inherit his gothic home and all that’s inside it. There, he meets a number of wacky characters and begins to toy with the idea of re-creating his grandfather’s famous experiment and reanimating a corpse.
Ben Cracknell’s atmospheric lighting alongside, William Ivey Long’s fabulous costumes and, Gareth Owen’s effective and spooky sound design create a thrilling assault on the senses and add to the humour and drama of the show without becoming repetitive or sleazy. Any moments which could be cringy and cliched are cleverly avoided by onstage characters pointing out how ridiculous they are. Beowulf Borritt’s set design cleverly intertwines aspects of the film and moves seamlessly from one location to another. Again, nothing is too over the top.
The cast are exceptional. Each giving spades and spades of energy whilst perfecting the comedic balance. Making it hysterical without being forced. Hadley Fraser is delightfully dynamic as Frederick and his glorious vocals ring out beautifully, especially in Frederick’s Soliloquy.
Cory English scuttles round the stage humourously as the contorted, gormless Igor. He brings a warmth to the role as well as a somewhat eerie side. Lesley Joseph is gleefully devoted to the older, violent Frankenstein. Her rendition of He Vas My Boyfriend is wonderfully weird and enjoyable.
Young Frankenstein is definitely not an ode to feminism, but the political incorrectness makes it all the more funny. Summer Strallen and Dianne Pilkington bring their tongue-in-cheek characters to life with side-splitting humour and verve as well as giving wonderful vocal performances.
This show is funny beyond belief and a real joy to watch. If it’s a feel good show you want, then Young Frankenstein is the one for you.
photo credit: Alistair Muir