Theater Review: Young Frankenstein
Mel Brooks musical is sure to leave audiences roaring with laughter.
As the lights go down, the orchestra fills the room with a dark, ominous tune while a screen on stage zooms in to a gothic, black and white looking castle. The orchestra accentuates chords in time with the music so it's louder and shorter on the lightning strikes in the background of the castle. Though this may allude to a horror show, the following musical number – which sings the joys of Dr. Frankenstein's death – signals that the performance is in fact a comedy.
Of course, many people who are familiar with Young Frankenstein probably already knew that.
The Erie Playhouse's final show of the season presents a bit of a challenge, as it is a musical adaptation of the movie. However, oftentimes musical adaptations of movies receive positive reception – for example, Legally Blonde, Shrek: The Musical, and The Wedding Singer.
Mel Brooks helped to write the script and the music, but I didn't know that going into the show.
As someone who is generally critical of adaptations, I noticed a couple of differences from the movie script to the musical – music aside – but the deviations make the show more upbeat, and the script still remained true to Mel Brooks' style of humor.
Throughout the show, the cast and the musicians delivered a solid performance with great comedic timing.
Ken Falkenhagen, who graces the Playhouse stage for the first time in 20 years, looks as though he never left it with his portrayal of Dr. Frederick Frankenstein – pronounced Fronkensteen. Frankenstein discusses his fascination with the brain and dedicates an entire song to the organ with a couple of fast-paced, multi-syllable tongue twisters that looked a bit difficult to get out.
Though Dr. Frankenstein may not be as cartoonish as the rest of the company, Falkenhagen stays true to his demeanor while remaining upbeat through song and dance.
Upon leaving to go claim the estate of his dead grandfather, Dr. Victor Frankenstein, he says goodbye to his fiancé, Elizabeth. This adaptation incorporated Elizabeth, played by Kristen Henry, more than the movie did and displayed her as a bit of an over-the-top starlet, with accentuated gestures, her pronunciation of "dah-ling," and operatic vocals – making her one of the more memorable and humorous characters.
On the opposite spectrum, Inga –Leah Johnson – plays Dr. Frankenstein's bubbly assistant. Johnson's portrayal energizes Inga through movement while keeping the Transylvanian accent. Both women make a large number of sexual innuendos, though Elizabeth's are more obvious.
One of the most memorable performances by far though would be Jerry Gill's Igor – pronounced EYE-gore. Not only does the text give the character more memorable one-liners, such as "Flying down to Rio," but Igor's mannerisms and genuine goofiness will make audiences of all ages cackle.
Although Frankenstein's monster does not receive nearly as much stage time as some of the other cast members, Brendan Daugherty brings life it –pun intended – through guttural dialogue and jerky almost robotic movement. He helps to make the tap dance to "Puttin' on the Ritz," one of the most hilarious and notable scenes in the show.
The large ensemble orchestrate fabulous dance numbers throughout the piece to help make it a show-stopper and one of the most energetic performances the Playhouse has had this season. They also add witty comments and goofy one-liners that help move the story along and keep the audience interested.
Unfortunately, the show had a few moments in the first and second act where I couldn't hear what was going on, either because the band played too loudly, the dialogue failed to project, or the sound system had a few glitches, which made it slightly difficult to follow along with the storyline.
Despite this, I considered it a wonderful way to spend my Saturday night. Fans of the Mel Brooks movie and those who are unfamiliar with it are sure to enjoy it, granted they enjoy a comedy.
The Erie Playhouse will end its season, not with a fizzle, but with a loud, monstrous roar. Young Frankenstein finishes its run at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 21-23 and 2 p.m. Aug. 24.
Khadija Djellouli can be contacted at kDjellouli@ErieReader.com. You can follow her on Twitter @Khadija426