nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
October 31, 2007
The first hint of trouble is the set, which we see as soon as we enter the theatre: a massive metal staircase (13 steps; that's unlucky) covers most of the stage; a second smaller one leads to a platform stage right. It doesn't suggest, well, anything, and it effectively reduces the playing area to nearly non-existent.
(A colleague pointed out a second bit of possibly bad karma: 13 actors in the cast.)
This apparently jinxed musical rendition of Frankenstein never recovers; it is, I am sad to report, one of the most ineptly put-together musicals I've ever sat through.
This is a show where virtually every pivotal and potentially exciting bit of action takes place offstage: the animation of the Creature and its subsequent unexpected leap into life, the murders of various key characters, and (most important) whatever it is that so repels Victor Frankenstein that he instantly renounces and rejects his Creation—all of these things are left for us to figure out and imagine on our own.
It's a show where every song sounds pretty much like every other song, and where the lyrics are mostly bland and generic platitudes. (I counted three different musical numbers in which "alone" was rhymed with "home.")
It's a show in which Hunter Foster, lately of Urinetown and The Producers, is spectacularly miscast as the title character; everything about his performance rings false. Steve Blanchard, late of Beauty and the Beast (in which he played the latter), is not miscast as the Creature, but the role as written gives him nothing interesting to do except dash around the stage menacingly in an incongruous '80s-rock-star rig, his buff bare chest and his neatly cut hair undermining any notion that his character is somehow frightening to gaze upon. Christiane Noll (once of Jekyll and Hyde) plays Frankenstein's love interest, Elizabeth, and her role has been beefed up rather witlessly, presumably because she's playing it.
The massive but innocuous set, supplemented by a variety of projections that provide a hint of location, limits director Bill Fennelly's blocking, perhaps fatally: there's just no place to put these actors except up and down that enormous staircase. And even though 13 actors sounds like a lot for an off-Broadway musical in 2007, there's still nowhere near enough people on stage to counter our ingrained memories from the movies of what an angry Frankenstein mob is supposed to look like.
It is, in short, a mess; the kind of show that you can only gape at and wonder how it ever got this far along with no one having told its creators that they were making a terrible mistake.
Frankenstein could be the basis for a musical that might be scary, or cautionary, or wildly theatrical (or all three). This one—written by Mark Baron and Jeffrey Jackson from an adaptation by Gary P. Cohen, and produced by Gerald Goehring, Douglas C. Evans, Michael F. Mitri, and David S. Stone, in association with Barbara & Emery Olcott—is none of the above.