Monday, November 12, 2007

"RrrrRRRrrr! Reviews bad!"

Posted By on Mon, Nov 12, 2007 at 11:04 PM

(Photo provided by Universal)

Possibly you’ll remember the all-too-fle

click to enlarge shuler.jpg
eting tenure of Bill Fennelly as artistic director of Actor’s Express theater. Fennelly was tapped to replace prior AD Jasson Minadakis and seemed like a talented, energetic, perfectly nice guy. However, Fennelly took the job with the intention of honoring a long-standing previous commitment: to direct Jeffrey Jackson and Mark Baron’s Frankenstein: The Musical, which became a prospect for an off-Broadway opening. With the show proving too much of a time conflict with running the playhouse, Fennelly had to choose one or the other, so he opted for off-Broadway, creating an opening for Freddie Ashley to enter.

At any rate, the reviews have come in for Frankenstein: The Musical at Manhattan’s 37 Arts, and even by the vinegary standards of New York theater critics, they’re pretty caustic.

Charles Isherwood of the New York Times:

“I passed a night of unmingled wretchedness,” pants the tortured title character in one of many a palpitating passage in Mary Shelley’s gothic novel “Frankenstein.” After passing a similar night, courtesy of the new musical version of Shelley’s tale that opened last night at 37 Arts, I can only say, “Victor, buddy, I know where you’re coming from.”

Linda Winer of Newsday:

This one is not even a horror show. It is, however, horrible. Author-lyricist Jeffrey Jackson and composer Mark Baron have approached the original with dead - make that deadly - seriousness. Even poor Hunter Foster, a baby-faced satirical hero from Urinetown and the last revival of Little Shop of Horrors, cannot re-animate a project that makes overblown musical claptrap by Frank Wildhorn seem like genius… . Directed with stark, dark pseudo-serious pretension by Bill Fennelly, the cast strikes masterpiece-musical poses and strains nobly to make the sung-through popera sound like something besides hard work.

Martin Denton of

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… . 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.

Frank Scheck, New York Post:

This "Frankenstein" is bad in an all-too-earnest way - it's deadly dull, rather than a campy hoot. The ineptness of its execution is matched only by the cynicism of its creators' intentions. It's hard to imagine that anyone reads the book these days and thinks, "There's a musical in this!"

Initially it seemed like bad luck for Fennelly’s Frankenstein to be opening at the same time as Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein on Broadway. Now it may be a silver lining – the more famous hot ticket may get the serious show more attention, and perhaps a smidgen of audience overflow, than it would not have gotten before.

One other thing: I didn’t realize until recently that Shuler Hensley (pictured), who was born in Atlanta and raised in Marietta, plays the monster in the Mel Brooks show — having previously assayed the lumbering role in the unintentionally hilarious action flick Van Helsing. Somehow, that knowledge almost makes the ridiculousness of Van Helsing worth it, in retrospect.

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