Young Frankenstein had a tough act to follow on Broadway. Coming after The Producers, one of the all-time great musical comedies, Mel Brooks' musical adaptation of his 1974 classic movie was probably doomed to take critical flak.
"When we opened Young Frankenstein in New York we were a victim of previous glory that led to exalted, impossible expectations,'' says Brooks, who wrote music, lyrics and book (with Thomas Meehan) for both. "In New York we were so aware of The Producers that we were trying to outdo ourselves."
Though Young Frankenstein didn't do terrible on Broadway — it ran more than a year — it was still considered a disappointment.
Next week bay area audiences will get their first chance to see the show on tour when it plays in Clearwater.
"I have to say I feel it's stronger now than it was on Broadway,'' says Susan Stroman, director-choreographer for Young Frankenstein as well as The Producers. "It's more focused. I can watch Young Frankenstein over and over again because it always makes me laugh.''
Brooks grew up loving Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers films from the 1930s, and Young Frankenstein is full of homages to them in the choreography of numbers such as Please Don't Touch Me and, especially, Puttin' on the Ritz, which features the monster in top hat and tails.
Stroman says the heart of the musical is the love story of "Dr. Frankenstein and the monster, a kind of father-son love story in song and dance.''
See Sunday's Latitudes section for an interview with Brooks, who talks about old movies, Broadway musicals, the 2,000 Year Old Man and why he puts German characters in everything he writes.
John Fleming, Times performing arts critic