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Frankenstein, A New Musical

Theatre Review by Jose Solís - October 10, 2017

One can easily imagine most artists taking on a musical adaptation of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein might go through a process not unlike the one undergone by the title doctor, who attempts to create life out of "spare parts." The right combination of lyrics and music should be enough to send an electric jolt that would ignite what's on the page, and yet a misstep in the experiment would leave the creator with a limp, lifeless creature. The new musical of Frankenstein, which opened at St. Luke's Theatre on October 9, unfortunately never quite comes to life. With book, lyrics and music by Eric B. Sirota, and direction by Clint Hromsco, the show drags its way through Shelley's familiar tale without adding anything new to the myth.

Jonathan Cobrda stars as Dr. Victor Frankenstein, a scientist keen on giving life to a body he assembled from parts he's collected from corpses. Meanwhile his fiancée Elizabeth (Amy Londyn) obsesses with their wedding and seems unaware of the strange experiments her soon-to-be-husband is conducting. One night Victor's creation comes to life (the Creature is played by Danny Bristoll) and upon the shock of being born runs away. As the Creature wreaks havoc in the country trying to find his humanity, Victor goes in the opposite direction, becoming more and more detached with each passing day.

The beauty of Frankenstein is that Shelley subtly reveals that Victor's creature has more of a soul than its master, but in this musical we get the hint from the get-go, as each actor appears to be starring in their own little private musical, and always worlds apart from whoever they share a scene with. Every member of the ensemble has the required vocal chops, Bristoll's voice in particular is quite splendid, but the director's choices in how they put them to use, leave much to be desired. Victor is asked to deliver his lines with the urgency of an operatic hero, with Cobrda using grand gestures that in certain scenes acquire the tone of parody. Elizabeth meanwhile, appears to be the star of a peppy classic musical, she's all smiles and odd reactions, such as when she's singing about her love of writing, but stands up and stops writing the moment the song begins.

It doesn't help that the songs do little to move the piece forward, as the score is comprised of forgettable melodies with inelegant rhymes ("diminish/image" "Vitruvian man/beauty of man") that clunk, rather than roll, from the actors' lips. Perhaps the most redeeming quality of the production is Bristoll's performance, the actor is always trying to keep up with the tonal discrepancy of each scene, finding paths to make the most out of the material he's given. He ironically puts the only soul the show has to offer.

Frankenstein, A New Musical
Through December 18
St. Luke's Theatre, 308 West 46th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues
Tickets online and current Performance Schedule: Telecharge

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