Halloween season is upon uswith all the ghoulish decorations, candy, costumes, and television marathons of classic horror films. I am not one of the biggest Halloween fans, but I find myself enjoying things like the Disney Channel's "Hocus Pocus" and of course Rocky Horror Picture Show. It had been a long time since I've seen Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein but something drew me to see the Albuquerque Little Theatre's production of its musical counterpart. I entered a bit skeptical, though (I didn't quite like their production of The Producers last season). I had never seen this musical before, but I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it.
Mel Brooks' latest musical endeavor does not reach the level that The Producers does, but it is everything you have come to expect from a Mel Brooks production. It retains much of the plot of the original 1974 classic film, but the addition of a musical score and choreography to its immensely entertaining script highly elevates the experience. It is a zany, wild ride with lots of laughs and gags. Sometimes you just have to shake your head at how ridiculous it can be. However, it's at these times you truly realize how much you love Mel Brooks.
The production does seem to stretch on for longer than necessary. The hilarity of the numbers and the plot keep it afloat, but only just. It may be for that reason that the Broadway production was not incredibly successful. Despite its overbearing length, you find yourself laughing the whole way through.
The cast does a wonderful job of capturing the oddball humor of Brooks. Daniel K. Tabeling, who stars as Dr. Frederik Frankenstein, is the exact kind of actor you'd want in this role. He embodies the character so well I'm sure Mel Brooks himself would give a standing ovation to his performance. Last time I saw Tabeling on stage he was playing Roger DeBris in The Producers. Sometimes I couldn't help but imagine him in his Grand Duchess Anastasia dress, but he manages to pull off the dress and don the Doctor's lab coat with relative ease. His comedic timing is on point and he has a competent voice.
The supporting cast is exceptional as well. The roles of Inga (Jessica Quindlen), Igor (Dehron Foster), and Frau Blucher (Fabianna Borghese) are all wonderfully cast, and each actor and actress has their shining moments. Inga's song "Roll in the Hay", Igor's "Together Again (for the First Time)", and Blucher's "He Vas My Boyfriend" were my favorite numbers in the production. Stephen L. Balling plays the Monster and does a great job of it.
There were some technical difficulties throughout the performance but other than that, the lighting serves the production well, the set is flawless, and scenes and changes seem to go on without a hitch. The choreography is a little tame, except for the tapping in the "Puttin' on the Ritz" number. I was impressed with the ensemble's ability to perform the variety of dancing in the production.
I would also like to applaud the members of the live orchestra for their talents in this performance. It's not the same going to a musical when there's no live music. Live theater needs live music. Their performance is just as wonderful as the actors on stage.
A warning: Mel Brooks' classic includes quite a bit of sexual innuendo and the musical keeps much of it. Many jokes and gags could be seen as offensive or inappropriate. This is Mel Brooks after all. So if you find that you are easily offended by such material, this probably isn't the kind of performance you'd enjoy.
Young Frankenstein is an excellent Halloween experience for theatergoers. If I were you, I'd take a Friday or Saturday night in the next couple of weeks and go see this production. You'll be doing yourself a favor. Halloween of 2013 in Albuquerque has a great friend in the Albuquerque Little Theatre and this production. Performances run through November 3, Fridays and Saturdays 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2. You can buy tickets at the door or at http://AlbuquerqueLittleTheatre.org.