MONSTER OF A READING: 'FRANKENSTEIN' HAS LIFE
November 8, 2006 -- SUPER duper!
Or, as the Monster would say, "Soooper doooper!"
That's what I'm hearing about the reading of "Young Frankenstein," the new
musical from Mel Brooks and his longtime writing partner, Tom Meehan.
They unveiled their new show to 20 carefully chosen Broadway insiders Monday
afternoon. A large woman with a clipboard stood in the middle of the doorway
to make sure that no one slipped by who hadn't personally been invited by
Brooks, his director Susan Stroman or his producer, Bob Sillerman, founder of the
entertainment company SFX.
Brooks has been very secretive about "Young Frankenstein." The actors were
given the script just a few days before the reading with instructions not to
let it out of their sight. But several people who attended the reading said
Brooks and Meehan may well have another "Producers" on their hands.
"Absolutely hilarious," one said.
"A total winner," another said.
"Mindless but really funny and, for Mel, surprisingly tasteful," said a
The musical tracks Brooks' classic 1974 comedy pretty closely. Dr.
Frankenstein, played in the reading by Brian D'Arcy James, is summoned to Transylvania,
where he meets all the great characters from the movie - Frau Blucher (Cloris
Leachman), Igor (Roger Bart), Inga (Sutton Foster) and a Chief Inspector with
a wooden arm (Marc Kudisch). Unable to resist the call of the family trade,
Frankenstein creates a monster (Shuler Hensley) whose every body part - every
last one - is very, very big.
All the classic comic scenes from the movie are in the show, many of them
set to songs by Brooks. His lyrics, one source says, "are very funny," and his
music is a "toe-tapping" pastiche of Sigmund Romberg, Cole Porter and Kurt
Among the songs are:
* "My Boyfriend!" - a Weill sendup sung by Frau Blucher.
* "Roll, Roll, Roll in the Hay!" - Inga's romp.
* "Deep Love," sung by the doctor's frigid fiancée Elizabeth (Kristin
Chenoweth) right after she has come in contact with one of the monster's really big
There are several big production numbers, including the 11 o'clock show-
stopper from the film, Irving Berlin's "Puttin' on the Ritz."
Everybody loved the cast, saying Chenoweth was in great form trilling her
operetta-like songs, Hensley was both funny and moving as the monster, and
Bart's comic instincts "are so smart, they're intimidating."
Leachman, while much older than the youthful cast, "ran off with every scene
she was in."
D'Arcy James ("Sweet Smell of Success") was a surprise because he's rarely
associated with comic roles. He was so good, in fact, that he's likely to land
the role for Broadway. This could cause some tension between Brooks and his
friend Matthew Broderick, who at one point thought the part was his.
But Broderick has yet to live down his poorly received performance in "The
Odd Couple" last season, and sources say some of the money people behind "Young
Frankenstein" are afraid to take a chance on him.
Stroman and Brooks hope to keep the cast for the reading together for the
Broadway production. Yesterday, agents were frantically trying to rearrange
their clients' schedules, since "Young Frankenstein" is now on the fast track to
Broadway. It will play an out-of-town tryout in the summer and will open in New
York, probably at the St. James (where "The Producers" is expected to close
in the spring), on Halloween 2007.
Yesterday in an e-mail, Stroman, who directed "The Producers," said: "We
were delighted with yesterday's reading. . . . The company had a mere 29 hours to
prepare an entire show, and they did it brilliantly."