It's alive — but it could definitely use another jolt of electricity. Sparks fly intermittently in this sophomore effort from Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan, the masterminds behind The Producers, but the hilarity that erupted so effortlessly from that Broadway megahit clunks along for most of this musical, even though they're both adaptations of classic Mel Brooks films.
As with any Susan Stroman production, the show has a glossy and refined veneer, jaunty choreography and a brisk but not overly frenetic pace. But Brooks — who wrote the music, lyrics and co-authored the book — and Meehan seem uncertain about whether to paint with just broad comedic strokes (a la Spamalot) or balance the laughs with some semblance of character and plot, as they did with The Producers. That indecisiveness stymies the production, in which the grandson of the famous Dr. Frankenstein inherits the family mansion and sets about bringing the famed monster to life.
Roger Bart, so memorable in a featured role in The Producers, is surprisingly stiff as leading man Victor Frankenstein ("That's Fronkensteen!"). He keeps a distance from all the lunacy rather than joining in the melee. Fortunately, he's surrounded by a top-drawer supporting cast. Andrea Martin is sublimely entertaining as harridan caretaker Frau Blucher, nearly turning a first-act just-for-laughs song ("He Vas My Boyfriend") into a showstopping 11-o'clock number. The massive Shuler Hensley (Oklahoma!, Tarzan), who's carving out a niche in various beastly roles, makes the green-faced monster a charmer, especially when re-creating the film's famous "Puttin' on the Ritz" song-and-dance routine. And the sprightly Christopher Fitzgerald delights as mischievous lab assistant Igor.
Leading ladies Sutton Foster and Megan Mullally are stuck in underdeveloped roles, but each gets at least one cute number: Foster the bouncy "Roll in the Hay," and Mullally the innuendo-laden "Deep Love." Brooks devotees will find there's fun to be had, but this is strictly a paint-by-numbers product rather than an original masterpiece.
By Diane Snyder
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Roger Bart (Dr. Frederick Frankenstein), Megan Mullally (Elizabeth), Sutton Foster (Inga), Shuler Hensley (The Monster), Andrea Martin (Frau Blucher), Fred Applegate (Kemp), Christopher Fitzgerald (Igor)
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