Friday, August 31, 2007

Birthday Cake

Everybody's talking about how long Young Frankenstein's ... er ... show play is. But some people just know how to write.

I love the way Gavin Borchert of the Seattle Weekly dot-com rounds up his easygoing comments on the show:

“Even the verbatim borrowings from the film seem less like calculated easy laughs than like, say, your mom cooking your favorite meal for your birthday,” writes Borchert.

You gotta love it.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Sing Along

Variety gives us a quick rundown of all the musical numbers in the Seattle preBroadway run of Mel Brooks's Musical Young Frankenstein. As writer David Rooney puts it, while we all know that the musical is destined to “place a stranglehold on Broadway,” it isn’t quite ready for prime time yet. Rooney reports that the show runs 2¾ hours long, and “it needs to step out from its maker's shadow, receive a couple more volts of electricity and go on a diet before hitting New York.”

Saturday, August 18, 2007

In Living Color

Wondering how the Broadway show is going to stack up? Playbill runs color shots from the Seattle preview today.

Makes me a little nostalgic for the vintage black and white on silver screen.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Stealing His Thunder

NPR listeners got a charge from the monster on Monday evening when Nell Greenfieldboyce’s climate change series included comments from two scholars who ascribed Mary Shelley's vision to the weird weather of the summer of 1816. Skies grey, wind cold, lightning flashing, all thanks to the eruption of Mount Tamboro in Indonesia—that was the weather landscape within which the monstrous story took shape.

“I think the plan had been to be tourists and go climbing the mountains,” Greenfieldboyce quotes Bill Phillips as saying. “And they couldn't, because of weather.”

Well, sort of . . . the evenings when the ghost stories were read and the contest to write another began, Mary Godwin and her friends may have been weatherbound. But then Byron and Shelley took off for a sail around the lake, and it was probably during that solitude that Mary Godwin (later to be Shelley) really looked her monster in the eyes for the first time.

And then, the monster's story conjuring itself in her imagination, she and her stepsister Claire and her lover Percy Bysshe did go mountain climbing. She gazed upon Mont Blanc and its glaciers firsthand, then used her travel notes to evoke the same scene when describing the first lucid encounter between creature and creator in her novel.

Read more details of their summer entrancements in my book, due out in early October from W. W. Norton. I am proud to report that Charles Robinson, Frankenstein scholar and editor of a reproduction of the novel's manuscript, considers that “Susan Tyler Hitchcock's scholarship on both the novel Frankenstein and its later incarnations is very impressive.”

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Front Row Seats

The NYPost reports that Mel Brooks is front and center at every Seattle performance of his new musical Young Frankenstein, price tag reported at $20 million. He considers that the show, just opening in Seattle is “75% there,” and he's touching it up for its New York debut in October.

The crowds on the West Coast love it as it is, so the Post suggests. They are—pardon their pun—in stitches all the way, but word has it that none of the new music tops “Puttin’ on the Ritz.”

Monday, August 6, 2007

In Good Company

Every now and then I come upon a reference to the monster that happened in years past. Here is a good one that came to my attention over the weekend.

In 1978 the Nobel Prize in Medicine was given to three scientists who discovered an enzyme that could slice through DNA, hence become an essential tool in genetic engineering. Swedish television newscasters described their research as opening up “the possibility to copy human beings in the laboratory, to construct geniuses, to massproduce workers, or to create criminals.”

When they were introduced at the Nobel Prize awards ceremony, that particular prediction was quoted, and the official at the microphone then said, “Let me for now, however, leave this Frankenstein-fixation of the news media. Reality is remarkable enough, without such excursions into science fiction.”

Ah, yes, but those excursions are oh so fascinating...

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Move Over, Mel

The world's first online musical takes place this weekend as a Cambridge, England, troupe performs “Joined at the Heart: The Story of Victor Frankenstein,” an adaptation of our favorite novel written by Francis Ann Bartram and scored by Graham Brown and Geoff Meads. The musical goes live through cyberspace as it is performed.

Streamed via Second Life from Cambridge’s Junction Theatre at 1940 GMT today, Saturday, August 4, it's yet another way that the monster moves forward at the vanguard, showing us the way to new forms of art and live.

I Feel the Earth Sing Under My Feet

Search carefully among all the noise about Mel Brooks and Young Frankenstein, and here and there you find another form of the monster peeking through.

Today a new Mac-based software package is announced online worldwide: Maestro Frankenstein 0.4b, called by its makers a “multitrack data sequencer to map scientific timeseries data to notes or musical control values.” In other words, this is “a tool for the creation of geophonic music—music from geologic data.”

The Music of Our Sphere—er, Globe—I love it.

And so would the monster.