Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Philadelphia

Young Frankenstein
Walnut Street Theatre
Review by Rebecca Rendell | Season Schedule

Also see Rebecca's review of There in the Light and the Darkness of the Self and of the Other


Dan Olmstead and Ben Dibble
Photo by Mark Garvin
Walnut Street Theatre opens its 211th season with Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein. There are tremendous dance numbers, zany characters, over the top slapstick humor, and enough boob jokes to make a monster blush. This is the American premiere of the revised London version, and director Charles Abbott delivers a production so fun it's scary.

Based on the classic Mel Brooks 1974 comedy horror film, the musical tells the story of medical school professor Frederick Frankenstein (Ben Dibble). This Frankenstein is the grandson of the infamous corpse-reviving Dr. Victor Frankenstein, but the professor strives to distance himself from his family's monstrous history and focus on modern medical science. Things get complicated when the young professor inherits his late grandfather's vast estate and old laboratory. Leaving his socialite fiancée Elizabeth Benning (Casey Elizabeth Gill) in New York, Professor Frankenstein travels to Transylvania and encounters a bevy of hilariously unsavory characters, including sycophantic assistant Igor (Luke Bradt), sexy lab tech Inga (Alanna J. Smith), and the indomitable Frau Blücher (Mary Martello). Soon there is a new monster (Dan Olmstead) and a whole new set of problems.

Under Charles Abbott's spirited direction the show retains all the humor of the original movie without any of the dated jokes that make the film a little hard to watch in 2019. That success is due in part to stellar performances by Dibble and Martello. Dibble is hilarious as the harebrained professor, getting peals of laughter from the slightest eyebrow waggle. Martello's performance is risible and her rendition of "He Vas My Boyfriend" is musical comedy gold. Gill is another standout and the image of her rolling across the floor belting out "tits!" had me giggling for hours.

There are big dance numbers that sparkle, thanks to Mary Jane Houdina's snappy choreography, Mary Folino's dazzling costumes, and an exuberant ensemble. Robert Kovach's plush sets are top notch. Walnut Street Theatre continues to struggle in terms of diversity in its casting, which is a shame because there is really so much to love about this entertaining production.

Young Frankenstein runs through October 20, 2019, at the Walnut Street Theatre, 825 Walnut St., Philadelphia PA. For tickets and information, call 215-574-3550 or 800-982-2787 or visit www.walnutstreettheatre.org or Ticketmaster.

Production and Design Staff:
Director: Charles Abbott
Set Design: Robert Kovach
Costume Design: Mary Folino
Lighting Design: Charlie Morrison
Sound Design: Ed Chapman

Cast:
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: Ben Dibble
Elizabeth Benning: Casey Elizabeth Gill
Igor: Luke Bradt
Inga: Alanna J. Smith
Frau Blücher: Mary Martello
Inspector Hans Kemp/The Hermit: Fran Prisco
The Monster: Dan Olmstead
Ensemble:
Robert Abdoo, Drew Franklin, Bonnie Kelly, Adam Mandala, Cary Michele Miller, Robert Mintz, Colin Pritchard, Audrey Simmons, Kayla Anne Tarpley, Mark William


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