Young Frankenstein at Orpheum Theatre

Shuler Hensley and Roger Bart in Young Frankenstein - Photo by Paul Kolnik

The Hennepin Theater Trust continues its season of touring productions with the Mel Brooks classic, Young Frankenstein, a musical version of his movie spoof on the monster horror genre.

But everybody knows that movie, right? If you do, you won’t be disappointed with the stage version. The schtick, the gags and the characters we’ve come to know and love are still there – and still just as funny in that inimitable Mel Brooks way. But don’t worry. If you are among the few who don’t know the movie, it won’t matter – as long as you don’t require sophisticated, urbane comedy.

There is a reason Mel Brooks is so successful at his brand of irreverent, ribald, broadly executed comedy: he knows, like other comic masters, what to poke fun at, and his sense of timing is simply exquisite. Happily, the production is faithful to Brooks’ interpretation of his own jokes, delivering on the next joke, just as the arc from the previous one has passed.

This has exactly what musical comedy is supposed to have: singing and dancing at the slightest provocation, obvious jokes, a paper-thin plot, spectacular sets and costumes, and more singing and dancing. It was a blast.

I could start listing songs and actors, but what’s the point? No need for that sort of tedium. It was beautifully cast and winningly executed with every performer delivering on the wacky fun. The sets were spectacular, the costumes were amazingly inventive and clever, the lighting dazzling, the singing and dancing first class. Although Brooks’ music never hits the level of Irving Berlin’s Puttin’ on the Ritz – the show’s wonderfully ridiculous finale – we can surely forgive him that. Berlin didn’t write jokes, did he?

Brooks remains, from what I can see, the master of spoofs – the real spoofmeister – able to find cracks and crannies in the most unlikely places in the action to stuff yet another spoof. Other people may think up stuff like this when they’re sitting around in their living rooms, but they can’t actually turn it into a movie, much less a full-blown Broadway show. I wonder at the ability to imagine an idea with consistency, and then realize the merry nonsense in such a huge production.

A word of caution: it’s replete with sex jokes. The same jokes on Leno would be lame, but it’s Mel Brooks so, for some reason, I laughed at them all. I would think twice about bringing children, though.

Young Frankenstein runs through February 14.

Major roles, at least, deserved to be named:

Roger Bart played Frederick Frankenstein

Shuler Hensley played The Monster

Cory English played Igor

Anne Horak played Inga

Joanna Glushak played Frau Blucher

Beth Curry played Elizabeth

How Was the Show for You?

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