Creature?s Pet: Hensley turns the tables on Bart.

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Humor Is Subjective, a Case Study: At the performance of Young Frankenstein I attended, the dude seated on my immediate left loved what he was seeing, and wanted everyone in his section to know just how much (“This is fucking hilarious!” “Oh shit I forgot about this part!” “These guys are great!”). The patron on my right, meanwhile, slept fitfully through most of the first act. My own reaction came down somewhere between the dozer’s and the douchebag’s, as I suspect yours will—though I admit to being more favorably inclined toward the dozer’s position. It’s not that what Mel Brooks and director Susan Stroman have mounted is boring, exactly—nothing that so desperately wants to entertain you, that is stuffed with so much vaudevillian, go-for-broke, gag-per-minute brio could be called boring. But the thing doesn’t move. Brooks’ and collaborator Thomas Meehan’s book lurches from setup to punch line to musical number with herky-jerky zeal, but Young Frankenstein never stops winking at you long enough for you to care, much. It insists so vehemently upon its own capital-W wackiness that characters flatten before our eyes, songs evaporate before they reach our seats. Yes, it’s a spoof, and broadness is the order of the day. But Brooks’ 1974 film was suffused with love for the James Wale Frankenstein films it parodied, a love that kept the director’s anarchic impulses in check and allowed him to produce the most disciplined, accomplished film of his career. Apart from its 17 new songs, a good 90 percent of the musical’s jokes are cut-and-pasted directly from the film. But they can’t land with the balletic grace they possess onscreen, because what’s animating them here is not the unifying passion of a cinephile but the scattershot, anything-for-a-yuk energy of latter-day Brooks, the Brooks of Life Stinks and Dracula: Dead and Loving It. Yes, yes, you say, but is it funny? Well, Roger Bart, reprising his Broadway turn as Dr. Frederick Frankenstein, is pretty great, managing to elbow in some subtlety amidst the tumult. Ditto Shuler Hensley (another veteran of the show’s Broadway run) as the Creature. And it turns out that the film’s highlight—the Doctor and his creation shuffle-ball-changing their way through “Puttin’ on the Ritz”—is even more spirited, more inventive and, let’s be honest, more enjoyable as it’s staged here. Makes sense—after all, that moment is as much about Broadway as it is about the characters, so Stroman’s choreography builds slowly and steadily to an old-school Big Payoff. It’s the only aspect of the evening that exhibits even a whit of self-discipline and the kind of sustained narrative impulse that keeps audiences invested—or, at the very least, awake.