Does anyone remember last summer when Young Frankenstein was making its preparations to open in Seattle? There was an industry reading of the show that featured the great Cloris Leachman in her original film role as Frau Blucher, whom everyone adored. However, Mr. Mel Brooks and his producers opted against casting her in the production.
From the 6/13/07 issue of the NY Post:
Broadway insiders told Page Six that Leachman had a “wonderful audition . . . She was involved in a workshop recently and everyone loved her . . . but it was obvious she was too old” to perform eight shows a week.
Brooks told Archerd, “We’re afraid the show might stop her – it could kill her . . . We don’t want her to die on stage.” Actually, that’s how most actors would like to expire.
One insider told us Leachman got the bad news via a letter. “She was told the producers wanted the stage version to differ from the film version,” the source reports. “She was very disappointed.”
“Cloris was absolutely up for the role,” said a friend of hers. “She’s healthy and she knows she can do it.”
A spokesperson for the production said, “Cloris was a very funny and game Frau Blucher in our reading, but in the end producers thought the physical demands of doing eight performances a week were too much to ask of her.”
Thing are a lot different for Young Frankenstein these days. The show proved not to be a critical or financial juggernaut like The Producers and was mostly snubbed by the Tony committee, receiving three nominations for its scenic design, Christopher Fitzgerald’s turn as Igor and Andrea Martin’s Frau Blucher. It seems producers have changed their tune as Mel Brooks has called Cloris to reprise her role of Frau Blucher in the musical.
From last night’s post-elimination interview from “Dancing with the Stars:
“Mel Brooks called me this morning in the bathtub. He wants me to go to Broadway and [reprise] my role in the musical ‘Young Frankenstein.’ We’re going to talk about it and figure it out.”
If anyone caught Cloris on television during the series, they know that she pretty defied everything the producers said about her being too old, with her formidable energy and unique comic timing put to good use, making her a fan favorite.
In my humble opinion, if Cloris Leachman is going to come back to Broadway, I think the producers of August: Osage County should scope her out to replace Estelle Parsons. Now wouldn’t that be something to see?