fauxklore (fauxklore) wrote,

Young Frankenstein

I traditionally take my mother to the theatre for Mother's Day. We actually end up going to a Saturday matinee (and not necessarily on Mother's Day weekend) because it's easier to schedule that way. The real challenge is to find something both she and I want to see. Since she doesn't ever want to go to revivals of anything she saw the first time around and she doesn't like the lower key stuff that I favor while I care most about the quality of the music, this can be very difficult. I'm willing to make certain sacrifices, but there is only so far that I will go. (Specifically, there is no way I will ever be willing to sit through Mamma Mia. Well, maybe for $5 million bucks, but not for my mother.)

In the case of Young Frankenstein, the reviews were mediocre but I liked the movie and my mother loves Mel Brooks, so I was able to sell her on the idea. (She never actually saw that movie and, in fact, did not realize that it wasn't a musical.) The first issue was the "what time do we go to the city?" one. Because my inclination would be to get the Long Island Railroad at, say, 8 a.m. and go to a museum for a while (or just walk around Manhattan), have a leisurely and interesting lunch, and then go to the theatre. I know there is no chance of this happening.

Mom's inclination is to sleep to noon and get to the theatre just before the show. Unless she needs slippers in which case she's determined to check out every shoe department in Macy's to determine that she can't find what she likes. In this case, she had actually gone shopping recently but I was hoping to do a bit of browsing. I have needed a new key case for a while and I have now verified that there aren't any in New York either. I'd have liked to look at jackets and shoes, but not with Mom along because her basic mode of interaction with me is criticism.

Going out to lunch is challenging, too, because she wants something "plain." Remember, we are talking here about a woman who ate at McDonald's in Tokyo. In this case, I was reasonably successful in my on-line research beforehand and steered her to Andrew's Coffee Shop, where she could get a grilled cheese sandwich, which she enthused over because the cheddar cheese "wasn't at all sharp." I had roasted vegetable quesadillas which were unexciting, but adequate.

As for the show, Mom loved it and I was lukewarm. The first act needs serious editing as it is too long. Most of the laughs are anticipatory as people who know the movie were waiting for favorite lines (e.g. "walk this way".) The jokes tend towards corny one liners, which are just not enough to sustain the momentum. The second act was a bit better paced but is weak as far as plot goes. The fundamental problem is that the movie was more or less directly translated to the stage with songs thrown in that just repeat the jokes, instead of moving things along. None of the songs were particularly memorable, either.

On the plus side, there were some fine performances. Fred Applegate was excellent as the Hermit. Sutton Foster was a competent Inga and Justin Patterson (the understudy) was fine as The Monster. The real highlight for me was Andrea Martin as Frau Blucher, particularly in her performance of "He Vas My Boyfriend." Roger Bart (who played Frederick Frankenstein), alas, proved mostly that he is no Gene Wilder.

There was some enjoyable choreography, but rather too much dependence on special effect. I wondered if Susan Stroman (director and choreographer) and Robin Wagner (set designer) had gone into partnership with Andrew Lloyd Webber in the "there is no such thing as too much flash paper" department. I think part of the reason that "Puttin' On the Ritz" works as a production number is that it's kept true to style without the constant pyrotechnics.

The comparisons I've read most are to "The Producers" (because of Mel Brooks) and to "Spamalot" (because audiences go largely due to their familiarity with the source material). But I think the more apt comparison is to "Hairspray," which Mom also liked much better than I did. (And which also shares a book by Thomas Meehan.)

Overall grade, B-.

I did, however, succeed in getting Mom to go to the Japanese restaurant near her train station for dinner, which proved to be surprisingly good. So she had a great day, enhanced by the pleasure she takes in driving me nuts. But that's another subject.
Tags: theatre

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