Revival of Frankenstein junior by Mel Brooks in Metz for Halloween: swinging Carpathians!

Building on the success of the creation of this production in Metz in 2021, after the postponement of 2020 due to the pandemic, the director and director of the house of Messina Paul-Emile Fourny takes over an almost identical team around the Halloween party. to cleverly mix the celebration of the day of the dead to the Anglo-Saxon and the parody of the Universal films of the 1930s put in the sauce Broadway.

After the success of The Producers (1968 film, now musical in 2001), the indescribable Mel Brooks reiterated the same adaptation operation with his film Jr. Frankenstein (in English The Young Frankenstein) made in 1974. The film parodied the famous trilogy of Frankenstein films starring Boris Karloff made in the 1930s by James Whale for Universal Pictures. It is the director himself, who, based on quite a long experience on Broadway, wrote the music in 2006 and the libretto in collaboration with Thomas Meehanfor a creation in 2007. The Messin opera uses the French adaptation due to Stéphane Laporte which had been created in 2011 at the Déjazet theater, where Vincent Heiden and Valérie Zaccomer already shone as Frederick and Frau Blücher.
The plot is quite simple: Dr. Frederick Frankenstein, a brilliant New York professor of anatomy, is forced to go to his grandfather’s castle in the Carpathians to claim his inheritance. Once there, the hunchback Igor, the seductive assistant Inga and the surly governess Frau Blücher as well as the appearance of the ancestor Victor will join forces to push him to resume the work of his ancestor who hoped to restore life to the dead tissues. (without knowing here if he could have done it). After successfully avoiding the interference of the villagers and Inspector Kemp, Frederick sees the scheme through, until the monster escapes after its presentation to the public, abducts Elizabeth, Frederick’s fiancée, who falls from it in love, while the scientist fails in the arms of Inga. The transmutation of the scientist’s cognitive and locutionary abilities in the monster’s brain is accompanied by the exchange with certain physical abilities of the creature, which allow couples to find what they are looking for there.

A musical melting pot

What immediately strikes the listener is the skill of Mel Brooks, who uses an easily recognizable melodic pattern of seven notes, heard from the beginning of the opening, and which becomes recurring six or seven times in the numbers that make up the musical. This motif is on the border between Kletzmer music and Central European music, the one linked to the origins of Brooks, and the other to his subject or at least to a shift operated from his subject (the film of 1974 and therefore the libretto take place in the Carpathians, while Mary Shelley’s story took place partly in Bavaria: the contamination with the story of Dracula is evident, from the adaptations of the 1930s to those of the Hammer in the years 1960, so much so that the count makes a small appearance at the end of the musical). Then Brooks uses all kinds of rhythms: jazz, fox-trot, swing, and a jazz band as an orchestra for the homage to the thirties, but he also integrates into his score a standard of the swing-fox trot due to Irving Berlin, ” Puttin’ On the Riz” for an anthology scene where Igor, Frederick and the monster perform a tap dance number on a theater stage set in abyss. The numbers follow one another at a frantic pace, each character having a major air, for a total of nearly two and a half hours of show, with even a surprising and superb chorus. a cappella “Welcome to Transylvania” then becomes “Wilkommen in Transylvania”.

Grégory Juppin (Igor, Vincent Heden (DR. F. FRankenstein, Lisa Lantieri (Inga)

Between parody and ribaldness

The whole has something crazy, well in the vein of its author, who uses a lot of gimmicks and the comedy of repetition often located below the belt: all kinds of ribald allusions dot the booklet, because of the party -taken from caricatural parody. The young doctor Frankenstein (pronounced “Frankenstine”, in the American way) is the archetype of the scientist who has dedicated everything to his research, so that his assistant Inga will be able to unravel him gradually better than his fiancée Elizabeth, archetype, she, of the puritanical prude of the United States, refusing to be touched (“Stop, we don’t touch ourselves”), and who ends up finding herself too disillusioned by the monster himself, who initiates her into “the ‘deep love’, so that everyone finds themselves there. The housekeeper, Frau Blücher, never fails to revive the memory of her great love, Doctor Victor Frankenstein, grandfather of the young Frederick: “He was my boyfriend”, between realistic song and tribute to Mistinguett and his “man” , is one of the best numbers of the lot, partly repeated later. We hardly know where the parody stops, because we are sometimes close to the third degree: at the very beginning when the villagers sing during the funeral of the grandfather, they sing “Happiness, that makes us happy”, a kind of parody of musical by itself, as in the duet between Igor as Frederick, “Still reunited for the first time”: the meaning of the lyrics does not fail to strike the viewer. But how not to let yourself be carried away by melodies worthy of the best standards: “Swimming in the straw” or “Get into business”, “Transylvania mania”, “Only listen to your heart”? How not to laugh at the vocalizations of Elizabeth who discovers carnal love in the arms of the monster? How not to be moved by the scene of the blind hermit (despite its somewhat forced comic gestures), thanks to the melody “Someone, I’m looking for someone”?

The Opera-Theater of the Eurometropolis of Metz has fully taken over the 2021 production with the exception of the small role of Ziggy. The impressive sets (the castle library, and especially the doctor’s laboratory in the castle, inspired by that of the Whale film, and due to Emmanuelle Favre) alternate with skilful projections that create impressive or bewitching atmospheres (especially the forest: congratulations to Patrice Willaume for its lights), thanks also to the skilful use of the tulles. We will particularly remember the perspective of the cart where Frederick and Inga are swimming in the straw, and the formidable tour de force constituted by the show of the monster who tap dances in the mirror of Chinese shadows, until the two shadows separate when his mind loses control. Paul-Emile Fourny uses a silver catwalk so that choirs and ballet members can spread out over all possible spaces; these under the leadership of Graham Erhardt-Kotowich stand out in particular in the dance “Stop, we don’t touch each other” and in the imitation of the gait of the living dead. It is above all the sense of rhythm that marks Fourny’s staging, the rhythm of individual and collective movements, perfectly tuned to an intoxicating score that skilfully uses the recurrence of musical themes in a kaleidoscope effect.

Jean-Fernand Setti (the monster)

The soloists of course are all to be welcomed, whether they come from the world of opera or musical comedy: Vincent Heden whose supple and delicate tenor follows the incessant movements of the swinging doctor ; Valerie Zaccomerthe phenomenal Frau Blücher with an accent to cut with a knife and a face so expressive; Gregory Juppin, Igor always on the move, with a supremely studied gait, and whose accents on the word “Master” are a marvel of characterization. do not forget Lisa Lantieria former dancer turned singer, whose suppleness and physical freshness as vocals amaze. Laurent Montel always seduces by the inexhaustible inventiveness which he demonstrates in the creation of a Germanic accent of which he alone has the secret, and by a striking slaughter in the piece of bravery “Entre dans le business”. Leonie Renaud uses the moires and deep harmonics of her soprano to the burst of disturbing vocalizations and takes an obvious pleasure in incarnating Elizabeth, passing from the futile heiress of Fifth Avenue to the woman-woman fulfilled by the monster. Jean Fernad Setti deploys his double meter in dizzying choreographies, and skillfully uses his deep baritone to infinitely modulate the monster’s frightening growls before singing a magnificent final song, after starting to articulate in “Puttin’ On the Ritz”. . Finally Christian Treguier moves like a blind hermit, helped by his remarkable projection and his stamp of a young man, stainless.
As in 2021, the big band named Orchester Halloween, under the direction ofAurelien Azan Zielinskishows a devastating enthusiasm, chaining dancing and percussive rhythms at will, until the end of the show, where the curtain continues to play.
Although our ears are still struggling to get used to the traditional sound system of musicals, we do not hide our pleasure in front of a show so original, colorful, full of rhythm and fun. Entertainmentyou say ?

Visuals © Luc Bertau – Opera-Theater Eurometropolis of Metz

Revival of Frankenstein junior by Mel Brooks in Metz for Halloween: swinging Carpathians! – Whole culture