With the celebration of Halloween becoming more and more part of the British psyche the West End has really delivered this year with not one, not two, but three shows which are set to feed the insatiable hunger of horror fans.
For hardcore horror you’ll have to wait for the Excorcist to open at the Phoenix Theatre, but in the meantime you have two monster comedy musicals to choose from in the form of The Toxic Avenger at the Arts Theatre and Young Frankenstein just down the road at the Garrick.
Having been unimpressed by The Toxic Avenger when it had its European premiere at Southwark Playhouse last year, I decided to instead get my fiendish fix from Mel Brook’s Young Frankenstein and I was not disappointed.
Lovingly ripping off the budget horror movie genre, the musical is based on the 1974 film and ran for two years on Broadway to mixed reviews.
But it’s been revamped by Brooks for the UK market and after a run in the North East comes to London feeling fresh and new but with the winning structure of a classic musical comedy.
Think Carry on Screaming with a soupçon of Me and My Girl and you’ll get the idea. There’s an abundance of near knuckle titillation and silliness, but with great music, a solid story and some utterly fantastic performances.
Leading the way is Hadley Fraser, whose Frederick Frankenstein (he’s very particular about the pronunciation) follows in his notorious monster making uncle’s footsteps with the encouragement of his henchman Igor, played by standup comedian Ross Noble. You’d expect Noble to have impeccable comic timing but what is unexpected is his masterful grasp of the other stage disciplines. Their duet “Together Again” sets out the stall for a night of high-energy dance and song, which I loved so much, I would happily watch again this week.
They are matched with some perfectly pitched frivolity from Summer Strallin (the “Roll in the Hay” sequence is so wrong it’s somehow right) and a bit of comedy gold from a pair of stage stalwarts in the shape of Lesley Joseph and Patrick Clancy.
And then there’s Dianne Pilkington, who plays Frankenstein’s spoiled socialite fiancé. She may not be on much but my goodness does she take the limelight when she is with some stonking numbers including the innuendo filled “Deep Love” with the creature, which had me crying with laughter.
And I guess I should mention the creature, who is played so convincingly by Shuler Hensley that I found myself rooting for him in the infamous “Putting on the Ritz” scene, completely forgetting that there is a renowned musical theatre star inside the grizzly façade.
Young Frankenstein is a fiendish feast, which I would like to indulge in again and again.