Bart, Hensley, Martin, Foster, Mullally and More Give Life to Young Frankenstein

News   Bart, Hensley, Martin, Foster, Mullally and More Give Life to Young Frankenstein Young Frankenstein, the new Mel Brooks-Thomas Meehan musical version of the Brooks film comedy, begins performances on Broadway Oct. 11, bringing to the stage one of the most indelible scenes in the history of Hollywood comedy.

Megan Mullally and Sutton Foster star in Young Frankenstein.
Megan Mullally and Sutton Foster star in Young Frankenstein. Photo by Paul Kolnik

Added into the collection of brand-new songs by Tony Award-winning composer-lyricist Brooks is Irving Berlin's "Puttin' on the Ritz," sung in the film — absurdly and without apology — as a public coming-out for the Monster that Dr. Frederick Frankenstein, grandson of the famed mad scientist, has created.

The Berlin number in the 1974 movie was grunted by Peter Boyle (who played the monster) in a simple duet with Gene Wilder (as Dr. Frankenstein). But in director-choreographer Susan Stroman's Broadway staging (set to officially open Nov. 8) at the Hilton Theatre, the number — featuring Tony winner Shuler Hensley as the green un-dead creature and Roger Bart as Frankenstein's heir — will build and build into a tap extravaganza that, observers of the show's tryout in Seattle said, gives "Springtime for Hitler" from The Producers a run for its money.

"The number is unbelievable," Hensley told Playbill Magazine over the summer. "It's probably seven or eight minutes, and it's a throwback to the old musicals. It's a big spectacle and pulls out all the stops. What's so great about Stro is that she tells stories through dance. And 'Puttin' on the Ritz' tells a complete story."

Brooks is hoping that lightning will strike twice with Young Frankenstein — the second time he's adapted one of his film comedies for the musical stage. Young Frankenstein is Brooks' Broadway follow-up to the film-inspired Producers, winner of the most Tony Awards in the history of the award — 12.

Robert F.X. Sillerman and Mel Brooks in association with The R/F/B/V Group are producing the new musical, which has an official title of The New Mel Brooks Musical Young Frankenstein. The production stars Tony winner Roger Bart (Dr. Frederick Frankenstein), Megan Mullally (as the doctor's love interest, Elizabeth), Tony winner Sutton Foster (as comely assistant Inga, who sings a number called "Roll in the Hay"), Tony winner Shuler Hensley (The Monster), Tony winner Andrea Martin (as castle matron Frau Blucher), Fred Applegate (as Transylvanian policeman Inspector Kemp, and a Hermit) and Christopher Fitzgerald (as hunchback Igor) with an ensemble that includes Heather Ayers, Jim Borstelmann, Paul Castree, Jennifer Lee Crowl, Jack Doyle, Renée Feder, James Gray, Amy Heggins, Eric Jackson, Kristin Marie Johnson, Matthew LaBanca, Kevin Ligon, Barrett Martin, Linda Mugleston, Christina Marie Norrup, Justin Patterson, Brian Shepard, Sarrah Strimel, Craig Waletzko and Courtney Young.

Dressed up like a million dollar trouper, the monster of Young Frankenstein exposed himself to the pitchforks, torches — and also potential embraces — of critics Aug. 23, when the musical officially opened in Seattle after previews there from Aug. 7.

Young Frankenstein ended its pre-Broadway Seattle engagement at the Paramount Theatre Sept. 1.

The elaborate sets by Robin Wagner were trucked to Manhattan, and the cast jumped back into rehearsal in New York.

Young Frankenstein is inspired by Brooks' black-and-white film comedy, which itself was inspired by Hollywood's black-and-white "Frankenstein" pics of the 1930s. The musical relies on the same creative team that turned The Producers into a critical and box-office smashzilla in 2001.

The production team includes three Tony Award-winning designers of The Producers: three-time Tony Award-winning set designer Robin Wagner, five-time Tony Award-winning costume designer William Ivey Long and Tony Award-winning lighting designer Peter Kaczorowski. Hair and wig design is by Producers veteran Paul Huntley. Jonathan Deans is the sound designer. Two other Producers alumni complete the music department: Tony-award winning orchestrator Doug Besterman and musical director and vocal arranger Patrick S. Brady.

At the helm again are Producers alumni Tony-winning director-choreographer Stroman, Tony-winning co-librettists Brooks and Thomas Meehan, and music supervisor Glen Kelly, who made Brooks' songs for The Producers soar.

Marc Brickman designed the special effects, Angelina Avallone is the make-up designer, casting is by Tara Rubin Casting, and John Miller (The Producers) is music coordinator.

In terms of high-profile, marquee-value musicals for the season, Young Frankenstein is one of the biggest deals on Broadway so far in 2007-08. The show's top ticket prices are $450 and $375 for "premier" seats, with plenty of $120 seats available in and around the same area.

That high-price offer was established in anticipation of high demand for the show, but it should be noted that "dynamic pricing" is in effect. That is, if the $450 seats do not sell, they will be released at the box office (at a time to be determined by the producers) for $120 — the standard price for a Broadway orchestra seat. Conversely, if all allotted $450 seats are sold, additional seats priced at $120 can be marked up. It's all about what the market will allow.

There is also a cheap-seat lottery offer in effect, plus seats in the balcony will cost $60-$80.

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According to the producers, "Based on the Oscar-nominated smash hit 1974 film, Young Frankenstein is the wickedly inspired re-imagining of the Mary Shelley classic from the comic genius of Mel Brooks. When Frederick Frankenstein, an esteemed New York brain surgeon and professor, inherits a castle and laboratory in Transylvania from his grandfather, deranged genius Victor Von Frankenstein, he faces a dilemma. Does he continue to run from his family's tortured past or does he stay in Transylvania to carry on his grandfather's mad experiments reanimating the dead and, in the process, fall in love with his sexy lab assistant Inga?"

The show is set "in the forbidding Castle Frankenstein and the foggy moors of Transylvania Heights." The song titles include "The Transylvania Mania," "He Vas My Boyfriend" and Irving Berlin's "Puttin' On the Ritz."

For more information, visit www.YoungFrankensteinTheMusical.com.

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The 1974 film received two Academy Award nominations, including one for Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder's script, also nominated for a Writer's Guild of America Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. Wilder starred in the title role.

In 2000, it was selected as No. 13 on AFI's 100 Funniest American Movies of All Time and in 2003, "Young Frankenstein" was chosen for preservation in the Library of Congress National Film Registry.

"Young Frankenstein" the film draws its inspiration from director James Whale's famous films "Frankenstein" (1931) and "Bride of Frankenstein" (1935). In both, Boris Karloff played the monster and Colin Clive the mad doctor.

On Oct. 10, at Off-Broadway's 37 Arts, the serious-minded Frankenstein, a New Musical began previews. The show is more faithful to Mary Shelley's 19th-century novel, and features Sutton Foster's Tony Award-nominated brother, Hunter Foster, as Dr. Victor Frankenstein.

Mary Shelley's novel "Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus" (1818, and revised in 1831), about a doctor who brings a corpse back to life — and the mayhem that follows — has inspired stage versions for many years. Some examples:

  • Frank Wildhorn is working on a stage musical of the tale that incorporates Mary Shelley as a character.
  • In 1980-81, a special-effects-packed non-musical, Frankenstein, by Victor Gialanella, was, at the time, the most expensive production ever on Broadway. The flop won a Drama Desk Award for its potent lighting design.
  • In 2001, Prometheus Dreams, a musical exploration of the material, with music by Sean Michael Flowers and book and lyrics by Patrick Vaughn, was presented by The Human Race Theatre Company in Dayton, OH.
  • Frankenstein, the Musical, with book, music and lyrics by Robert Mitchell, played Off-Off-Broadway's Wings Theatre in 2006.
  • A show called Frankenstein…do you dream? appeared as part of the New York Musical Theatre Festival in 2004, after beginning life in Canada.
  • Have I Got a Girl for You! The Frankenstein Musical had an Off-Broadway run in 1986.
  • Roger Bart and Shuler Hensley (on table) star in the new musical <i>Young Frankenstein</i> at the Hilton Theatre.
    Roger Bart and Shuler Hensley (on table) star in the new musical Young Frankenstein at the Hilton Theatre. Photo by Paul Kolnik