Young Frankenstein

Young Frankenstein

By Ron Bennison

Closing out the 2009/2010 Mirvish subscription season, this production opened March 17 and runs until April 18, 2010. 
 Venue: The Princess of Wales Theatre – 300 King St. West  Toronto, Ontario

Warning:  Strobe lights are used in this production.  Recommended for ages 12 and older. 

If you’ve seen the 1974 classic comedic horror film of the same name (co-written by Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder and directed by Mel Brooks) you know that this is a reimagining of the classic Mary Shelley tale and is about sex as much as it is about horror.  If you haven’t seen the film, you’re in for a playful bawdy romp. This touring production, starring players from the original Broadway cast, including Tony award winners Roger Bart (Frederick Frankenstein), and Shuler Hensley (the Monster) and Cory English (Igor) – and also featuring Beth Curry (Elizabeth), Joanna Glushak (Frau Blucher) Anne Horak (Inga) and Brad Oscar (Inspector Kemp),  is an inspired, re-imagined musical homage to that film. 
This is the story of a doctor engaged to girl who doesn’t like to be touched; doctor inherits mad-scientist legacy and travels half-way around the world leaving girl behind; doctor goes for a “roll in the hay” with a second girl who becomes his lab assistant; doctor creates monster with huge endowment but half-wit abnormal brain; monster escapes; angry villagers search for monster;  meanwhile doctor falls for second girl; first girl shows up unannounced catching doctor  with second girl; monster returns and doctor  scientifically transfers part of his brain to the monster to prepare him for his coming out; big production number follows; monster bolts and  ‘takes’ first girl...repeatedly; first girl awakens to what she’s been missing out on; doctor is hanged by angry mob for creating the monster; monster returns and revives doctor; a second transfer occurs the doctor receives endowment from the monster; second girl is now smiling as broadly as the first.
In this tale, the zombie isn’t out for blood – he just wants to live and be loved, he’s misunderstood and feared by the people around him because of his appearance coupled with his inability to communicate effectively.  He frightens easily when faced with the unexpected and he rages when he is in pain or is attacked.  In short, he’s the personification of our base human behaviour.  He didn’t ask to be created this way but this is what he is and this is why we all connect with him and hope for a “happy ending” for him and his enormous “Schwanzstücka”.

Young Frankenstein 2

The abundant tongue-in-cheek sexual innuendo delivered in deadpan black and white close-ups in the film, are choreographed in broad brash unapologetic brushstrokes on the stage in songs, “Please Don’t Touch Me”, Roll In the Hay”, “He Vas My Boyfriend and especially, “Deep Love”.   But it’s the side-splitting, show-stopping Busby Berkeley style big production number "Puttin' on the Ritz" (Irving Berlin), where the monster’s speech becomes intelligible, that the show really hinges on.  Set design, staging, and lighting all work effectively to suspend our disbelief as we travel to that cliché hotbed of horror – Transylvania.

With Young Frankenstein, Mel Brooks continues the formula that made The Producers such a success - take classic material that is familiar to audiences and put a musical spin on it.   Serious  themes of ostracism, anti-semitism,  medical ethics, rehabilitation and assimilation and the monster that ‘lives’ inside each of us, can be easily found beneath the veneer of  the wink-wink, sexy bits making this show more than just a tasty dessert.  And in this age of branding and rebranding, a re-imagined musical of a comedic film parodying a classic literary horror tale about re-animation seems strangely...timely.  
Don’t wait until Halloween to see this show, it only runs until April 18, 2010.
Book by: Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan
Music and Lyrics by: Mel Brooks
Original Music Supervision and Arrangements by: Glen Kelly
Direction and Choreography by: Susan Stroman
Associate Director: Steven Zweigbaum
Musical Direction by: Robert Billig
Costume Design by: William Ivey Long
Scenery Designed by: Robin Wagner
Lighting Design by: Peter Kaczorowski
Sound Design by: Jonathan Deans

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