You know the lines: "Vould you like to have a roll in ze hay?" "Abby someone. Abby ... Normal." "Put ... the candle ... back!" "You have to remember that a worm ... with very few exceptions ... is not a human being." "Destiny! Destiny! No escaping that for me!" "He vas my boyfriend!"
We could go on with lines from the 1974 Mel Brooks classic Young Frankenstein, the eternally quotable film comedy starring Gene Wilder as Dr. Frankenstein — "That's Fronk-en-steen" — and Peter Boyle as his monster. And this weekend at the Lexington Opera House, the musical version of the movie will include many of those classic quips.
"People are familiar with the movie," says Rory Donovan, who plays The Monster. "So they go in knowing a lot of the jokes, knowing a lot of the moments, so it gives them a comfort that they're in on the joke. So you can feel the energy in the audience when a moment comes up, like the 'book fell' scene with the rotating bookshelf and 'put the candle back.'
"But what's neat about the musical is that it puts the audience in that comfort zone of being in on the joke, but then it gives them something extra. There's an extra joke, or a song, or something else that comes from left field and hits them in an entirely different way."
Jack Whiting was associate director of the Broadway production, working closely with director Susan Stroman and Brooks, and he is the director of the national tour.
"It's so well known, the challenge was, 'How are we going to make it interesting and fresh for fans of the movie who know all the punch lines and are expecting those punch lines, and still offer them something new?'" Whiting says. "We have a musical score that's of course new to the audience, but what's really great is that Mel went further and wrote another joke that nobody heard before. The punch line everyone is familiar with is there, but then there's another stinger he delivers to the audience."
Young Frankenstein was the successor to the wildly successful Brooks musical The Producers, but Donovan and Whiting agree that it might have a bit more in common with Spamalot!, the musical based on the 1974 classic Monty Python and the Holy Grail. (Maybe it was something about 1974.)
"They're both brilliant parodies of different genres of film," Donovan says.
And they each have legions of fans who can practically recite the scripts from memory.
But, as casts of The Producers learned, there was a distinct Mel Brooks style that they had to turn to be able to carry the material.
As associate director, it was Whiting's job to take that style from the Broadway production and infuse it in the tour's young cast, who in many cases did not know the movie before they signed on to do the show.
"The hallmark of Mel is his timing, his dry timing," Whiting says. "That was something this company and the Broadway production had to figure out, that you stretch out a line and then, boom, you deliver that punch line. Mel also sets up an expectation in a line and then he turns around and, boom, he smashes it.
"Mel is a master at that."
Whiting says there's also a distinct physicality that goes into Brooks' shows.
"It all goes to setting up this expectation of what the joke is going to be," he says, "and then, boom, we bring out Ovaltine or something else unexpected."