Sunday, June 15, 2008

To Appreciate Inspiration...

... one must experience its absence. 'Young Frankenstein: The Musical' provided such an opportunity Thursday night. Half-price tickets are still $65, a bit much for a musical that's just OK. Where did they wrong, with comic genius Mel Brooks on board? It's not a technical problem, as the directing, acting, singing, dancing, set and light design were all good. It had Megan Mullally, ferchrissake (pictured left), a tornado of comic talent worthy of Madeleine Kahn's legacy. The blame goes 100% to the writers. Let's run this down..

1. Originality. The best inspiration, of course, starts from scratch. That's not to say a remake can't be original, but you have to re-imagine the idea. You can't just Xerox inspiration - it's not as simple as 'take a great movie, add water, and create a great musical'. If you dig up the corpse a movie classic - pun intended - you need 'lightening-bolt' it new angles, ideas, and dialogue or it won't look or smell very nice... Hey, the movie itself showed this, since Frankenstein was already a much-parodied cliché in 1974 that Brooks completely re-imagined. At least 'The Producers' wasn't a remake of a remake of a remake...

2. Lack of Suprises. Half the joy of fiction, for me, is not knowing what's going to happen next. 'Young Frankenstein - The Movie' is so well-known that many can quote long scenes verbatim, even millions that were born long after its 1974 release. 'The Producers,' was a cult item most Americans hadn't seen.

3. No Drama, Mama. Pure comedy is always harder to do - it either works or it doesn't, it's either funny or it's not.

4. New Jokes, Please? 'Young Frankenstein - The Movie' was basically a long series of great gags, and re-heated gags get stale. For this reason, when Blake Edwards put 'Victor/Victoria' on Broadway he wisely wrote dozens of all-new great one-liners and sight gags, which Brooks failed to do here. One thing the play DID do right was pacing - mediocre gags go down best when you don't have time to think about them.

from Macy's 2007 Thanksgiving Day Parade, the saucy, well-delivered, but still mediocre 'Roll In Ze Hay,' sung with a faux-Swedish accent by the accomplished Sutton Foster, who plays Inga, Frankenstein's buxomy assistant...

Here are some vestigial kitchen party decorations - I took them down after a month

This hall ceiling pattern STILL hasn't been taken down...

More, more, more...


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