The Theatre Royal Puts On The Ritz…
Newcastle Theatre Royal
Until Saturday 9th September 2017
Book: Mel Brooks & Thomas Meehan
Music & lyrics: Mel Brooks
Direction & Choreography: Susan Stroman
Set design: Beowulf Boritt
Costume design: William Ivey Long
Musical direction: Andrew Hilton
Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein is a wonderful theatrical production. A great cast, a wonderful script with a fabulous sense of humour, funny songs with many clear references to the popular film - the show is a real treat.
The musical is based upon the 1974 movie with Gene Wilder and Marty Feldman. This was in turn a major homage to the classic Universal horror films. The musical continues to celebrate those films, but it also finds time to celebrate the golden age of the musical too. Clearly tonight’s cast also had big shoes to fill given the legendary status of the original cast of the film. The good news is they have more than enough class to carry it off.
Hadley Fraser plays the brain scientist Fredrick Frankenstein whose uncle has a reputation for trying to reanimate the dead. The show opens up with the pun-filled song The Brain which set the tone for both the wicked sense of humour and quality of singing on show.
Frankenstein receives a telegraph to say his uncle is dead and that he needs to go to Transylvania to claim his inheritance. Before he leaves America, his finance Elizabeth sees him off on the good ship Queen Mary Shelley. Dianne Pilkington has great fun in the innuendo filled number Please Don’t Touch.
The doctor meets up with his assistant Igor, played with great comic timing by Ross Noble. So can Ross sing and dance? He put in a great shift during Together Again before meeting up with lab technician Inga. Summer Strallen’s character is another opportunity for more singing, dancing and laughs as they all head off to the castle together.
At the castle they meet up with the housekeeper Frau Blucher - which turns into a great vehicle for Lesley Joseph to show off her comedic talents and sing. Her big number He Vas My Boyfriend had even more laughs for the Theatre Royal crowd. Those memorable jokes from the film have been retained - so the mere mention of Frau Blucher’s name still instils fear in the local horses.
The set helps recreate the castle scenes from the film and the show flies by with a perfect pace. The songs and dance routines do allow a tribute to the classic US musicals. This in particular happens with the Puttin’ On The Ritz scene which has been extended compared to the film and becomes a full-scale dance routine. Shuler Hensley, who played the role previously in both the Broadway and US tour productions of the show, is nimble of his feet as the Monster.
The laughs were many and frequent. Even when there was a small problem with a door on the set, this was an opportunity for Ross Noble to address the audience with a bit of stand-up whilst staying in character as Igor. His remarks immediately afterwards, about the door, brought the house down.
The live band, under musical director Andrew Hilton, are out of sight in this production but never put a foot wrong.
Young Frankenstein is a marvellous musical. We even debated if it was actually better than the film on the way home. That debate will continue, however, what we did agree on, was it was the best musical that we’ve seen this year so far. …and we don’t say that every day!
Review by Stephen Oliver
The pre-West End season of Young Frankenstein is at Newcastle Theatre Royal from Sat 26 August until Sat 9 September 2017, playing evenings Tue – Sat at 7.30pm, matinees on Sat 2.30pm (not 26 Aug) & Thu 7 Sep 2pm. Tickets from £19.50. Tickets can be purchased from the Theatre Royal Box Office on 08448 11 21 21 (Calls cost 7ppm plus your phone company’s access charge) or book online at www.theatreroyal.co.uk