Performing Arts: Young Frankenstein Review

by Editorial
Shuler Hensley, Roger Bart. Photo by Paul Kolnik.

Shuler Hensley, Roger Bart. Photo by Paul Kolnik.

With the news of his grandfather’s death, Frederick Frankenstein leaves his prestigious university and his mad-cap fiancée, Elizabeth, to journey to Transylvania Heights to settle the family’s estate. He is met at the station by Igor, a most faithful and devoted servant, and by Inga, the voluptuous and eager laboratory assistant. At the Frankenstein Castle, Frederick is welcomed by Frau Blucher, the stern and imperious housekeeper, who was also his grandfather’s girlfriend.

After a carnival-like dream sequence complete with gypsy dancing ancestors and a gigantic puppet monster, Frederick decides to join the family business. He creates a Monster and brings it to life just as the villagers descend. The Monster escapes into the night, stumbling into the home of a blind hermit determined to share his meager treasures.

Frederick believes that culture and intelligence can be introduced and he sets about trying to reform the recaptured Monster. His efforts culminate in an energetic and creative song and dance routine, “Puttin’ On the Ritz,” which includes an amazing shadow dance. But the lights and press of the people is too much for the Monster and he escapes with Frederick’s fiancée, Elizabeth who quickly falls in love with him.

Igor finds the Monster and brings him home where Frederick has built a machine to transfer his own intelligence to the Monster. But the villagers break in, calling for the death of Frederick. Just as Frederick drops from the scaffold, the Monster rushes in with a classy British accent and human warmth, bringing Frederick back from the dead and winning over the villagers.

Reprising their roles from the original Broadway run are Roger Bart as Frederick Frankenstein and Shuler Hensley as the Monster. Bart is the perfect straight man for the half-crazed antics of the residents of Transylvania Heights. His voice is strong, and he dances in a careless manner that reminded me of Fred Astaire just playing around. Hensley’s physical performance is impressive, but it’s his heart that comes through and the audience is on his side from the beginning.

Corey English is the sidekick I would pick for myself. His Igor is funny, but effective, devoted and resourceful. His vaudevillian-style number with Bart, “Together Again,” is incredibly entertaining. Brad Oscar portrayed not only Inspector Kemp, a blustery local hero who lost an arm and leg to a previous monster, but also the Blind Hermit, lonely in his solitude and wonderful with physical comedy when the Monster finally drops by.

Beth Curry plays Frederick’s fiancée Elizabeth, and she is a true prima donna, funny and flamboyant. Her number “Deep Love,” after she and the Monster come to intimate terms, was hilarious. Joanna Glushak plays the role of Frau Blucher with complete conviction, stern and imperious. Her number to shine in is “He Vas My Boyfriend.” And Anne Horak wore her heart on her sleeve as Inga – pretty, happy, enthusiastic, one of those creatures that delights the eye, enticing Frederick to join her for a “Roll in the Hay.”

But the true praise must go to set director Robin Wagner, lighting designer Peter Kaczorowski, and sound designer Jonathan Deans. It seemed every few minutes we were treated to new vistas and dynamic sets. The lights and sound were integral to the story, though an overuse of strobe lights may disturb some viewers.

Young Frankenstein is full of laughs from start to finish, and it’s a great way to spend a holiday evening.

Young Frankenstein
Book by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan
Music and lyrics by Mel Brooks
Directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman
Set design by Robin Wagner
Light design by Peter Kaczorowski
Sound design by Jonathan Deans

With
Roger Bart, Shuler Hensley, Cory English, Brad Oscar, Beth Curry, Joanna Glushak, Anne Horak, Lawrence Alexander, Preston Truman Boyd, Stephen Carrasco, Jennifer Lee Crowl, James Gray, Shauna Hoskin, Matthew Brandon Hutchens, Kristin Marie Johnson, Sara Lin Johnson, Melina Kalomas, Amanda Kloots-Larsen, Brittany Marcin, Chuck Rea, Christopher Ryan, Lara Seibert, Geo Seery, Jennifer Smith, Matthew Vargo, and Erick Walck

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