A Monster Hit

Written by Richard Barber


The tone for the evening is set in the very first musical number, The Brain, eulogised thus by young Professor Frederick Frankenstein (‘It’s pronounced Fronkensteen!’): ‘Though your genitalia Has been known to fail ya, You can bet your ass on the brain!’

If you find that offensive, this is not the show for you. But if wall- to-wall seaside postcard humour is a welcome relief in an increa- singly PC world, then you’re in for a hoot. Not to mention a howl.

When his grandfather dies, Frederick repairs to Transylvania to inspect his crumbling bequest and there encounters Igor, a hunchback with a moveable hump; the lemon-lipped housekeeper, Frau Blucher, the very mention of whose name causes two mighty steeds (Marks and Spencer) to throw back their heads and whinny in terror; the slim-hipped sexpot, Inga, only too happy to assist the new master with his mind games; and a surprisingly sweet reactivated Monster. Welcome to the mad, mad world of Mel Brooks, who has adapted his hit film starring Gene Wilder and Marty Feldman for the theatre, first seen on Broadway in 2007 but now new and improved and perfectly suited to the bijou stage of London’s Garrick Theatre. With the exception of Irving Berlin’s Puttin’ on The Ritz, here given an eye-popping tap dance routine led by the transmogrified Monster, all the songs and lyrics are the work of Mel.

Proceedings never let up for a minute, courtesy of Susan Stroman’s cracking direction and choreography, although Mr Brooks was in town for the final weeks of rehearsal. And you can kind of tell. He’s assembled a fabulous cast, not one weak link in the chain. Hadley Fraser is pitch-perfect as our hero, somewhere between incorruptible and borderline crazy, and he’s got a fine voice. Both Ross Noble and Lesley Joseph as Igor and Frau Blucher rein in any temptation to go too far over the top, with the result that they’re twice as funny as they might otherwise have been.

The stunning Summer Strallen as Inga would have little trouble in assuming the mantle of the nation’s sweetheart. And Dianne Pilkington, young Frankenstein’s virginal fiancée, has an iron pair of lungs and just the right touch of comic timing to somehow make her ultimate ravishing by the Monster a cause for celebration.

Christmas is coming and here is the perfect adult panto: silly as a sack and guaranteed to give you jaw ache from two and a half hours of non-stop laughter. Utterly irresistible.

At the Garrick Theatre, London WC2 until 10 February: 0330-333 4811, www.nimaxtheatres.com