The theme for April 2012 at Musical Cyberspace is “Single-Song Showstoppers”, a series of big numbers sung by a featured characters in a show – typically their only solo, although they might sing minor bits and pieces elsewhere – each of which raise the roof.
Today’s single-song showstopper is “He Vas My Boyfriend”, from – to use its full unwieldy title – The New Mel Brooks Musical Young Frankenstein, a musical comedy that Mel Brooks allowed Thomas Meehan some room to assist with the book. The song is sung by Frau Blücher, a role that was played on Broadway by Andrea Martin, after Cloris Leachman, who had played the role on film, was gracelessly ditched by Mel Brooks who thought she wouldn’t do the role justice due to her age. (What would we do without the New York Post to get juicy bits of gossip like that?)
The Setup: Eerie violin music trickles through Castle Frankenstein. Upon inspection, it is discovered that the housekeeper, Frau Blücher, is the fiddler and that she was doing more than mere housekeeping for the late Victor Frankenstein.
The Song: All right, yes, I know. We all know. Young Frankenstein was a disaster and hardly anything in the show was good enough to qualify as a showstopper. So let’s call today’s song a “Single-Song Showstopper Gone Wrong” and try to learn a lesson by seeing where the song fell short. First of all, it’s very difficult to get a single-song showstopper from a relatively modest solo spot like this one. However, with a virtuoso performance of a brilliant piece of writing, it is possible. Look at something like yesterday’s “My New Philosophy”, for example. In “He Vas My Boyfriend”, Andrea Martin gave it all she had, but the music and lyrics by Mel Brooks didn’t support her and that’s where the song falls short. The song is a kind of Kurt Weill meets Lorenz Hart amalgam, a “Surabaya Johnny” spoof in the mode of “To Keep My Love Alive”. For that to work, each new section of lyrics has to top the one it follows and that just doesn’t happen here. After the original joke is stated, the song simply doesn’t go anywhere and the variations on the theme just aren’t funny. The song doesn’t maintain the interest it needs to fulfill its intentions: the clichés and hackneyed jokes pile up and by the end of it all, the audience is in a comatose rather than a rapturous state. Sad, isn’t it? When applause must reward the work and not the effect and the staging has to cover up the weaknesses of the song.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on “He Vas My Boyfriend”. Click on the comments link at the end of this post and share them with us!