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“I’m a very hard forker,” Frederick Frankenstein’s hand-picked assistant announces upon their meeting in Transylvania, where the anti-hero returns to deal with his departed grandfather’s estate. It’s a typical Brooks joke, an unashamedly crude play on words. Any fans of his extensive creative bulk will feel right at home here with Young Frankenstein.
It sets the tone for the musical’s two and a half hours of frantic, unadulterated humour and sideswiping lyrics. Launching into a love song to the brain, Young Frankenstein’s tongue is rapidly pushed hard into the cheek. Frankenstein, desperate to shake off his historic associations, meets a team of brilliant misfits who deliver the humour with ease.
Inga, the aforementioned assistant, is as provocative as she is funny. His unelected personal assistant Igor, played in expert fashion by comedian Ross Noble, is surprisingly lovable. As is the Monster, played by Shuler Hensley reprising his role from Broadway.
Lesley Joseph balances the stern confidence of housekeeper Frau Bluecher with a softer edge. It’s a similar journey undertaken by Dianne Pilkington’s fiancée to Frederick, who delivers two of the show’s standout tracks. The first, emerging early on, further sets the brilliantly lewd tone. The second, Brooks’ phallic take on the more traditional ballad, sounds simply huge.
Brought together by visually spectacular set design, and an enthusiastic ensemble cast (who turn into a note-perfect barbershop quartet at one point), the cast drive forward the deliberately ridiculous tale with a heart-warming message of acceptance and self-worth. Mel Brooks fans won’t be disappointed with a show that might even beat The Producers for sheer laughs, and those new to his musical theatre work will undoubtedly find much to love.
Young Frankenstein is now running at London’s Garrick Theatre in the West End. Tickets are available now through Ticketmaster.co.uk.