Published on: December 7, 2007
This week, Mrs. Content Guy, our 13 year-old daughter and I went into the city to see “Young Frankenstein,” the new Mel Brooks musical that just opened a month or so ago. I’m not entirely objective about the experience – the original movie is one of my all-time favorites, I have a weakness for Brooksian humor, I love the theater and am a big fan of musicals (except for anything written by Andrew Lloyd Webber). Nevertheless, I think I can summon up enough analytical skill to talk about the show…and even draw some off beat but relevant lessons from it.
To be sure, I liked “Young Frankenstein.” It’s fun, it’s funny, the songs are good and the performances generally winning, with a couple of standouts. But it ain’t the movie. In fact, it isn’t even “The Producers,” which was Mel Brooks’ hugely successful last Broadway show, or “Spamalot,” the terrific musical based on “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.”
I think there’s a reason for this. “Spamalot,” while it uses “Holy Grail” as a jumping off point, actually is something (to borrow a Python phrase) completely different…as much a satire on the Broadway musical as a takeoff on the King Arthur legend. “The Producers” adheres fairly closely to the original movie, which has a strong narrative line.
But “Young Frankenstein” sort of tries to have it both ways. On the one hand, it follows the movie very closely…enough so that my daughter, with whom I have watched the movie numerous times, was practically reciting some of them before the actors on stage. But it also tries to satirize the Broadway musical in some ways, which distracts from the story. And, because it wants to be hilarious at almost every moment, it means that every joke is BIG…which doesn’t always work.
Take, for example, the famous scene in the movie in which Peter Boyle, as the monster, encounters a blind hermit, played by Gene Hackman. In the film, the comedy timing seems to be to be almost delicate – it has beats and rhythm and builds wonderfully, even as it gives the audience moments to catch their breath. But in the play, it is all played on one level – BIG – and it loses some of the charm it had onscreen.
Now, “Young Frankenstein” already is a hit, and if it comes to a city near where you live, it certainly is worth seeing. But it offers a great lesson in the importance of pacing and the need for levels…whether you’re talking about musical comedy…or even about a retailing experience. I’ve always that thought that the best retailing has elements of theatricality. Maybe it is because I write about retailing for a living, but this was the metaphor I was thinking about as I left the show:
Timing, and pacing, are everything.
My daughter – who may have been the youngest person in the theater – makes me very proud when she likes movies like “Young Frankenstein.” (She’s also a big theater buff – even I was shocked to find out that this was her sixth Broadway show. I didn’t see my first one until I was older than she is now.)
She liked the musical about as much as I did, I think, but it ends up that Mrs. Content Guy probably liked it more than both of us. The reason, I think, is easy to figure out – she may have been the only person in the theater who still has never seen the movie version.
Which we’re going to have to fix one of these days. Because I can’t believe that I’ve been married for more than 24 years to someone who has never seen “Young Frankenstein.”
(I obviously should have given her a movie test like the football test that Steve Guttenberg’s character gives his fiancé in “Diner.”)
Don Imus is back on the radio, and I, for one, am glad. He deserved to be punished, but he didn’t deserve a career death sentence…and after listening this week, I’m convinced that he has a different outlook on issues like race and discourse.
The thing is, he still seems to ask better questions of public figures than almost anyone else on radio or television, and he has an irreverence that I find stimulating.
He isn’t and will never be to everybody’s taste, and that’s okay. I’m glad Don Imus is back, and is once again a big part of my morning routine.
My wine of the week: the 2003 Rombauer Cabernet Sauvignon, which is very, very good. We had it with burgers the other night, and it was perfect. Now, to be honest, it was a gift…so I didn’t know what it cost when I opened it to have with the burgers…and only later found out that it was a $40 bottle of wine.
A very good $40 bottle of wine.
But a good friend of mine once told me – after I’d unknowingly consumed a $60 bottle of wine with spaghetti (I have no idea why I get these gifts, but I do) – that the best way to consume an expensive bottle of wine 1) when you don't know what it costs, and 2) with some sort of favorite food, no matter how basic.
Well, I seem to have this down to a science.
That’s it for this week. See you Monday.