Regional Reviews: Phoenix
The plot of the musical mirrors the film and follows Dr. Frederick Frankenstein, the grandson of a mad scientist who created a monster out of various body parts that went on to terrorize the countryside. Frederick wants nothing to do with his ancestors but agrees to go to Transylvania to inspect the property he learns he has inherited. He meets a hunchback servant, Igor, the frightening housekeeper Frau Blücher, and Inga, a beautiful young woman with a local community college degree in Laboratory Science. After reading his grandfather's journals, Frederick becomes intrigued and eventually changes his mind. Before you know it, this odd quartet of characters is in action reanimating the dead, with hysterical circumstances.
Young Frankenstein is a loving homage to the Universal series of Frankenstein films of the 1930s and '40s. While the Mel Brooks score is only serviceable, which may have been a reason for its original short Broadway run, it does feature plenty of kooky characters, many vaudeville-style comic moments, and a lot of bawdiness in the hilarious script. The book by Brooks and Thomas Meehan features many of the already familiar lines of dialogue from the film along with a few new and funny supporting characters. The humorous book, along with several comical and upbeat song and dance numbers, helps to overcome some of the lesser songs in Brooks' score.
Directors Allyson Van Patten and Sue Anne Lucius have cast this production with a talented group of actors who deliver rich and very funny portrayals that are close enough to the beloved movie actors' portrayals to give a hint of familiarity for fans of the film while also adding original bits to make them fresh. The only quibble I have is that some of the actors' humorous accents aren't consistent throughout. Van Patten and Lucius keep the pace of the production fast, with good use of Amanda Embry's exceptional set design, which includes a gorgeous backdrop of the Frankenstein castle high on a hill, an elaborate laboratory set, and numerous other large set elements that quickly set the location of each scene. Cody Soper's lighting is stunning and uses both bright and lush colors for the upbeat moments along with deep blues and purples to portray the moody night scenes. The costume designs by Aurelie Flores tie into the time period of the piece and are also a fitting homage to the familiar film characters. The sound design by Tyler Forée ensures that every lyric and line of dialogue is heard loud and clear.
JT Ziervogel's great comic timing works well for Frederick. He instills the role with a sense of eccentricity and smarts along with a big dose of excitability. He also has a beautiful singing voice and great stage presence. Ariana Lucius infuses Inga with an abundance of charm, a high amount of sexuality, and some bright vocals. As the Monster, Jared Kitch is an absolute crowd pleaser, with an ability to turn a series of grunts into comic gold. Zachary Cacciacarro is equally good, with perfect comic timing and expressive and humorous gestures, as Igor. While she isn't in that much of the show, with a humorous "continental" accent and a beautiful singing voice, Paige Stabley is delicious as Frederick's oversexed fiancée Elizabeth. Angelica McGrew is very fun as the mysterious Frau Blücher, and Sergio Santa Cruz is hilarious as the blind hermit. In smaller parts, Zack Diepstraten, Darryl Poenisch and Huy Ly provide some funny moments as the insufferable Inspector Kemp, Frederick's grandfather, and the town idiot, respectively.
While Young Frankenstein may not be a perfect musical, it has many bright, bawdy and humorous moments and culminates in a fun-filled laugh riot. With a very good cast, exceptional creative aspects, and clean-cut direction, Mesa Community College's production proves that even if a show wasn't a big hit on Broadway it can still be fun and crowd-pleasing in regional theatres.
Young Frankenstein, through November 3, 2018, at the Mesa Community College Performing Arts Center, 1520 S Longmore, Mesa AZ. Tickets and information for this show and for upcoming productions can be ordered at 480-461-7172 or at www.mesacc.edu/arts/events.
Directed by Allyson Van Patten and Sue
Anne Lucius Choreographed by: Ashley Harkey