Sunday, September 30, 2007

Mel hearts Broadway

Friday's USA Today featured a fall arts preview. While reports on the season's upcoming movies, television shows and music were available online, theater got the cover of the Life section and a half-page inside. More specifically, the new Mel Brooks musical "Young Frankenstein" got the cover and the half-page inside. (With a small box listing other highlights of the Broadway season).

"Young Frankenstein" is my favorite Mel Brooks movie, and I've been looking forward to the musical version. Steve On Broadway already took in the tuner during its Seattle tryout and gave it an enthusiastic review.

Brooks, with his characteristic understatement, calls the cast, which includes Roger Bart and Megan Mullally, "the best ever assembled for a Broadway show." But he's silent on a controversy that's been raging over ticket prices, which will reach $450 for some center orchestra seats.

Coproducer Robert F.X. Sillerman defends them, saying [The select seats] "make up a fraction of the total ticket allotment, and so far, the demand for them is robust. We also offer $25 front-row seats, and the rest of the house is priced comparably to other Broadway musicals. Our tiered pricing is part of Broadway's ongoing effort to deal directly with customers across the economic spectrum by providing precisely the service and location they need at the price they can afford."

And the article makes no mention of another controversial move - the decision to depart from the customary practice of reporting weekly box-office totals. But Sillerman told The New York Times, “This is a private transaction. Consequently, I don’t know if there’s any — I’m quite sure there’s not any — bona fide business reason to do it other than bragging rights.”

The article, with more quotes from Brooks, as well as Roger Bart and director/choreographer Susan Stroman, is well worth a read.

I've got my ticket to Broadway's Hilton Theatre, where "Young Frankenstein" starts previews on Oct. 11 and opens Nov. 8. Although I can assure you I didn't pay anywhere near $450. Only time will tell whether Mel Brooks will have a hit on his hands to rival "The Producers." I'll weigh in with a review in November.

For his part, Brooks raises the interesting prospect that his next Broadway show might be based on an original idea rather than on one of his movies. And despite his notable success in film and television, he says his heart belongs to Broadway.

"This is much better than making movies, much more fulfilling. Things that happen under a proscenium arch are alive, they're immediate. When you hear that orchestra starting somewhere in the pit, filling the theater with music, you get goose bumps. A movie is great, but never thrilling like that."

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