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Young Frankenstein

It's alive! Mel Brooks' wickedly funny twist on Mary Shelley's classic story.

Young Frankenstein - Original Broadway Cast Recording

Young Frankenstein - Original Broadway Cast Recording

About the Show

[IMG:L]Decca Broadway
Now Available

There exist dumb musicals that we all love. But they are never plain, ordinary dumb. They play with benightedness as with a ball, these smart-enough-to-seem-dumb musicals.

Now, why would something smart want to seem dumb? Because some truly, defiantly smart musicals (think Stephen Sondheim) are in danger at the box office. Not only the tired businessman but also a host of others want to heedlessly relax at a Broadway musical. A good, smart musical ultimately triumphs despite its braininess (think Sondheim again), but that tends to be a delayed triumph. A good, pseudo-dumb musical enjoys instant popularity.

What then is the precise case of Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein, coming at the heels of his epochal, 12-Tony (not twelve-tone!) success with The Producers? Truthfully, Young Frankenstein may not climb that high, but it is enormous fun at a somewhat less exalted level.

Whereas The Producers was an immediate, all-critical, all-audience hit, Young Frankenstein's press was rather more divided. It takes some discrimination to tell the pseudo-dumb from the really dumb, and some critics—even, if I dare say so, some audiences—are unable to discriminate so finely.

The Producers was helped by living off a rather sophisticated Gene Wilder-Mel Brooks movie, genuinely smart in its satirical-parodic daring. Young Frankenstein, the movie, was already pseudo-dumb, and its musical version had to be even pseudo-dumber.

[IMG:R]For me, though, it worked very nicely, thank you, and the original cast CD catches much of the reason for it. This is no small matter: A lot of original cast recordings, for no want of trying, are poor legatees of the theater productions. But what the YF CD offers in abundance is witty takeoffs on the beloved musicals or operettas of Sigmund Romberg, Victor Herbert, Rudolf Friml and their likes. Will Friedwald's booklet note is very helpful in identifying this persiflage, though one wishes it didn't use "trod" as an infinitive, and "enormity" where enormousness is intended.

So here again are Brooks' clever lyrics and catchy tunes, enhanced by Glen Kelly's musical arrangements, Patrick Brady's vocal arrangements, and Doug Besterman's orchestrations, all to excellent effect.

When I say that a love song like "Listen to Your Heart" could unashamedly issue from Fred Astaire's lips, or that "Man About Town" (about the Monster) functions as a worthy lead into Irving Berlin's "Putting on the Ritz" for Frankenstein and Monster's celebrated tap dance, I mean a hearty compliment. And the naughty phallic and clitoral inuendoes of "Deep Love" would not have kept Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald—by not understanding them—from glorying in its tunefulness.

I am once again enchanted by the valiant cast headed by Roger Bart, Megan Mullally, Shuler Hensley, Andrea Martin and Christopher Fitzgerald, and perhaps especially by Sutton Foster—she who managed to be irresistible even singing upside down during a sexy hayride.

My one regret is for there not being more photographs of the hilarious castle and laboratory by Robin Wagner and the cheeky costumes of William Ivey Long. But thanks to good recording, the savvy listener can just about visualize Susan Stroman's saucy choreography. He or she will have my blessing if it leads to seeking out an actual performance and not let a few carping voices prevent a theater visit that the CD will joyously extend ad infinitum.

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