Seattle recently launched Mel Brooks’ new musical Young Frankenstein, based on the 1974 parody of the classic story about a man and his monster. Megan Mullally of Will and Grace brought in a crowd, while Roger Bart’s doctor channeled Richard Dreyfuss as a suitable stand-in for Gene Wilder, who created the movie with Brooks. Sutton Foster’s innocent Inga, on a mission to land herself an American by any means necessary, is leggy, yodels and dances a mean “Frankenstep.”But Inga is no match for Flower Drum Song’s showgirl Linda Low or sweet Mei Li. What sweeter casting revenge than an Asian cast as one of many fake Germans? Imagine the box office draw (and gag effect) if Lucy Liu emerged from the hay wagon as a St. Pauli Girl, belting out “Roll in the Hay” like Pat Suzuki?
African Americans were excellent in Seattle’s ensemble and in the orchestra pit. The handful of Asians there were just the paying customers. What if Asian Americans demanded that Brooks recast an Asian female?
Asians have long conquered Berkeley, but it will take more than hitting the books to break into Hollywood or the Great White Way. Asians should have worked to bring a live Gedde Watanabe to the stage for creating the most enduring character in Sixteen Candles (Molly who?) instead of trying bury the film. Forget Uncle Ho and Malcolm X. The masters we should be learning from are Chairman Brooks and Long Duk Dong.