Review: National Tour of Young Frankenstein at the Granada

By Guest Writer Cameron Platt:

The Broadway musical’s most common function is, simply enough, to entertain. True, the American musical has often extended into elevated intellectual and artistic territory, but its core remains in the standard comedy—Broadway’sone consistent offering as fads ebb and flow over the decades.

Young Frankenstein, Mel Brooks’s musical adaptation of his 1974 film, parodies this musical comedy tradition (think kick lines and happy endings) and the horror film genre (think the original Frankenstein film adaptation) as it tells the tale of Frederick Frankenstein (A.J. Holmes), grandson and last living descendant of Victor Frankenstein.

Fred Frankenstein is dedicated to his work as Dean of Anatomy at a New York City university and dismissive of his family history (Victor famously created a monster) until he is summoned to Transylvania to settle matters of his grandfather’s will, whereupon he is lured into his grandfather’s crazed world of ambition and invention.

Because Young Frankenstein parodies with affection, its caricature of the glitzy and ditzy musical comedy form inevitably turns into an adherence to the form.  Indeed, the production has every element of the huge-scale musical-comedy spectacular: flashy lighting effects by Peter Kaczorowski and larger-than-life set by Robin Wagner; Susan Stroman’s original Broadway choreography; Mel Brooks’s delicious songs, from show-stopping ensemble numbers “The Brain” and “Join the Family Business” to innuendo-saturated solos “Roll in the Hay,” “He Vas My Boyfriend,” and “Deep Love”; limitless springs of mindless and exaggerated humor; and, above all, a brilliant leading cast.

As Frederick Frankenstein, A.J. Holmes masters geeky gaucheness and by turns startles us with wit, captivates us with spirit, and endears us with heart. Fred Frankenstein is the archetypal mad scientist, and Holmes jumps into that zany character tradition with both purist-satisfying reverence and individual flair.

As  Frankenstein’s  right-hand hunchback Igor, Christopher Timson alternates between the disturbing and the adorable as he delivers Igor’s nimble physical comedy and manner of overzealous servitude. Silvery soprano and standard Broadway blonde Elizabeth Pawlowski shines, too, as lab-assistant-turned-love-interest Inga, in whom sweetness coexists with seduction to bewitching effect.

Under the sway of such talent, in spite of our declarations of more sophisticated taste, so often we turn to Broadway for that gaudy release, that absolute absorption and escape into a world of unparalleled glamour and scale—with its sweeping coordination of light, space, movement, and song; its jazz squares, Charlestons, and kick lines; its top hats, canes, and tuxedoes.

This is the world of Young Frankenstein, a world meant to achieve nothing more than delight. It is a world in which even the most analytical viewer can’t help but surrender the mind to the spectacle and, for once, to sit back, relax, enjoy the show, and drink from the absurd extravaganza.