REVIEW: Young Frankenstein @ Theatre Royal, Newcastle

Posted on September 7th 2017 by Whats on Northeast

Words: Andrew Bramfitt

If laughter is the best medicine, the doctor will see you now!

Are you sick of turning on the TV only to be met by scenes of doom, gloom, Brexit, Trump, and the ever failing economy?  Then the remedy is simple – turn it off, grab your coat and head for Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein.

This monster musical is based on Brooks’ Oscar-nominated movie of the same name and if the reaction of the Theatre Royal crowd is anything to go by, it’s about to smash the West End. It is unashamedly funny, deliciously dark and dirty in equal measures and makes no apologies for at times being just down right daft – and that’s what people will love most.

The story pays homage to all the old horror films made great in the 30s and 40s that were then recreated by Hammer, Roger Corman and Richard O’Brien in the 60s and 70s but from the opening song there is no mistaking that this is Mel Brooks. Brilliant, witty, sexy Mel Brooks, whose love of Jewish culture, vaudeville, slapstick and women’s bodies have already made hits of Blazing Saddles, Spaceballs and The Producers (to name but a few).

The cast are all brilliant and clearly have bought into the Brooks mind-set of not letting the audience dwell too long on one joke before hitting them with the next, which keeps things feeling fresh (and makes for repeat ticket sales, I reckon you need to see it three or four times before you’ll feel you’ve managed to see everything).

Hadley Fraser has the most difficult task in replicating the wonderful Gene Wilder as Frederick Frankenstein, yet gives the audience enough of himself peppered with Wilder-isms to never be guilty of simply copying the original. He tackles the super-fast wordplay with aplomb, can sing and dance with the best of them and never missed a cue.

Fans of Brooks’ films will recognise many familiar themes: the scene introducing Inga (the gorgeous Summer Strallen) as Frankenstein’s assistant echoes Ulla’s first day for The Producers; the play between Frankenstein and the irrepressible Ross Noble as Igor has the same warm humour as Sherriff Bart and The Wacko Kid; even the Monster (Shuler Hensley brilliantly filling the big shoes) could be a distant relative of Mongo.

Of course, a musical needs songs and, once again, Brooks delivers a soundtrack that will surely become a huge hit cast recording. Both Dianne Pilkington as Elizabeth Benning (Frankenstein’s repressed fiancé) and Lesley Joseph as Frau Blucher (the housekeeper) have solo numbers which don’t so much give an insight into their ideas of love as rip open their blouses and proudly show their heaving bosoms.

This was a wonderful opportunity to see the show before it hits the West End – to be able to say “I saw it first” will be a proud boast over the next few months when it undoubtedly rips up the reviews and gives London an epidemic of aching ribs.

Young Frankenstein runs at Newcastle Theatre Royal until Saturday 9th September. Click here for more information.

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