We went to the out-of-town “opening night" of a musical headed for Broadway, an adaption of the movie, Young Frankenstein. Both the 33-year-old movie and this new musical are by a writer/ composer who’s 81, Mel Brooks. We’d just listened on CDs to his 2000-year Old-Man routines, recorded when he was in his 30s, laughing our way through a long car trip.
The man has been making me laugh all my life. The stage on opening night was deep in references to all that this maniac knows about making people loose it to hilarity. Those references were such a part of my own howls, I felt sorry for the audience members who were too young to know how much was going on.
The sight gags, slapstick, bawdiness, and vintage shtick were funny enough to have everyone in the house roaring, no matter how young they were. A perfect double-take is funny in and of itself even it it doesn’t trigger images of generations of comedians making the same move. The “build" of lines to the perfect topper kept bringing down the house. (Especially when the topper was “May I get you a soy mocha vente macchiato?" Brooks was winking at Seattle.)
It was the kind of tuned-in, totally responsive audience that pumps performers to higher and higher levels. At the curtain, Brooks came onstage, to my total delight. “There are trucks waiting to take the production to New York. Now I’m ordering buses for this audience. You’re coming with us."
A New Yorker myself, I don’t think Brooks had to worry that this was only an out-of-town experience. I loved the venerable script, the over-the-top production values, and the sublime professionalism of the cast—their timing, delivery, dance moves, and singing voices were flawless. The Broadway successes of The Producers and Spamalot seem to say that New Yorkers will have just as much fun as Seattleites with this masterful enhancing of a vintage silly movie.
But those references—I had my own solo smile when the 30-something guy in front of me leaned over to his date and whispered, “Who’s Noel Coward?" She didn’t know.
There were black backpacks for sale in the lobby, printed with the huge words, “What hump?" I’m kicking myself for not buying one.
If the Young Frankenstein reference doesn’t ring for you, type the words into YouTube.