When Young Frankenstein opened on Broadway in 2007, critics stormed the theater brandishing poisoned pens like torches and pitchforks. Mel Brooks' expensive monstrosity was full of eye-popping effects, we were told, but it never lived up to the source material. More to the point, it was a pale, dashed-off follow-up to The Producers, Brooks' universally adored screen-to-stage adaptation, which won more Tonys than any musical in Broadway history, a distinction it almost certainly doesn't deserve.
The Producers, a film about making a very bad Broadway musical, made immediate sense on stage, while the iconic horror parody Young Frankenstein was a film about film and doomed to lose a little something in translation. Also, The Producers wasn't widely seen in its original film release, and with a few critical exceptions, it was savaged for extreme bad taste. The musical's huge success was aided by mobs of critics eager to make amends for missing the joke the first go-round. Young Frankenstein, the stage musical, on the other hand, was widely viewed as "cashing in."
But here's the thing, folks. All the gags you loved from the original Young Frankenstein have been preserved in the musical. The horses still freak out when Frau Blucher's name is spoken aloud. Igor's hump still wanders from side to side. Even a few of the songs are classic Brooks, especially "Don't Touch Me," a naughty, "Anything Goes"-inspired to-do (and not to-do) list for the sexually frustrated.
So maybe this monster isn't really a monster. Like the horror movies it's inspired by, Young Frankenstein might just be a stupid good time.
"Young Frankenstein" at the Orpheum, March 8th-13th. $40-$95. orpheum-memphis.com.