Review: Young Frankenstein Brings the Laughs

Roger Bart and Anne Horak

The lights dim, lightning strikes and the crowd cackles as the credits roll across the curtains on the historic stage of the Orpheum theatre for the Minneapolis Broadway premiere of The New Mel Brooks Musical Young Frankenstein. That moment – bringing together stage and screen, epitomized the delightful and hilarious evening I had at last night’s opening of this sexy hit show (which runs from 2/9 – 2/14).
If you’re like me, you haven’t seen the movie “Young Frankenstein,” Mel Brooks’ 1974 comedy starring Gene Wilder, even though its been named one of America’s funniest movies. No worries. The musical is still amusing and enjoyable even without that context; although there were a few jokes that definitely went over my head.
The musical follows Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (played by award winning Broadway actor Roger Bart) as he travels back to Transylvania to dispose of the estate of his grandfather, the famous Frankenstein who raised life from the dead. Despite his best initial intentions, the young Dr. Frankenstein creates his own monster (played by the award-winning Broadway star Shuler Hensley), and the musical follows the fall-out, as well as Dr. Frankenstein’s sexual exploits along the way.
If you’re a fan of the raunchy Jewish humor Mel Brooks popularized in movies like “Robin Hood Men in Tights” and “History of the World Part I,” you’ll love this musical, for which Brooks produced, wrote the book and lyrics, and composed the music. Especially songs like “Roll in the Hay,” a laugh-out-loud musical number depicting pseudo-sex acts as Dr. Frederick Frankenstein bumps up and down in a wagon with a stunning blonde, or “Don’t Touch Me,” the hit sexy song by Dr. Frankenstein’s prudish fiance.
If you like big Broadway dance numbers with kicking and spinning, you’ll love numbers like “Transylvania Mania” and “Puttin’ on the Ritz.” The dancing is really stunning in this show, and the fabulous comedic timing of English, Hensley, and Bart only enhances those numbers.
My only complaints? I love the Orpheum theatre but there are nowhere near enough ladies bathrooms (are there ever?). And as I said previously, also I felt a little left out on the inside jokes. If you can see the movie before you see the show, you’ll definitely heighten the experience. Oh, and make reservations for dinner nearby ahead of time otherwise there is no way you’ll grab a table at nearby Solera, Palomino or Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery.
Overall, if you’re looking for a fun date night, I would definitely say that the show is an unique and entertaining choice for Valentine’s Day weekend (see Rule #2 – plan something we’ll remember). My +1 had a blast last night, and he’s neither a big theater-goer nor a watcher of Mel Brooks’ films. It’s also pretty neat that you can take your beer to your seats, and feel comfy (and in good company) wearing jeans and a nice shirt to the show.
Students get a great deal any night they go with $20 rush tickets available at the Box Office. The rest of us can save a few bucks by buying tickets to tonight’s (2/10) show on Ticketmaster’s TC Jewfolk discount site. If you’re heading to the show during the rest of its run – 2/11 through 2/14, you can buy tickets through the Hennepin Theatre Trust’s website. You can also buy tickets in person at the box office to avoid the facility fees.
I was pleasantly surprised last night – Young Frankenstein at the Orpheum was creative, sharp and sexy. The audience raved for the performance, and showed their enjoyment with bursts of laughter throughout and an extended standing ovation. If you do head to downtown Minneapolis and check it out, let us know your thoughts in the comments.
(Note: While my tickets to Young Frankenstein were complimentary, I would only recommend an event that I personally enjoyed and believed would add value to my readers.)