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Outrageously campy, tongue-in-cheek humor is alive and kicking this summer in Mel Brooks’ musical, Young Frankenstein. Ahem, that would be pronounced “Frankensteen.” The musical is based on the hilarious 1974 comedy film, Young Frankenstein, which is a re-imagined spoof of the Mary Shelley classic.
When top New York brain surgeon, Frederick Frankenstein, inherits the Transylvania castle and laboratory of his late grandfather, Victor Von Frankenstein, Frederick must make a decision. Should he separate himself from his crazy family past or “join the family business” and continue to reanimate the dead?
Where some jokes or scenes may fall flat at times, a strong plot, excellent direction by five-time Tony Award winner Susan Stroman, clever dance numbers, and funny musical scores by Mel Brooks, keep the entertainment flowing and story moving along.
Although the first number starts off slow, the show picks up steam in the second, when we’re introduced to Frederick Frankenstein, solidly played by Roger Bart. With simple scenery of a chalk board and mathematic equations to set the stage, Dr. Frankenstein sings/teaches to his medical students on why he is so utterly in love with the brain.
But it’s not until the third number, when Dr. Frankenstein’s hilarious, high-maintenance fiancée, Elizabeth (Stacy Todd Holt), enters and steals the show. As she bids adieu to Dr. Frankenstein on his journey to Transylvania, Elizabeth overtly flaunts her sexy curves in a tight red frock, while simultaneously dodging his attempts to touch her. Uproarious physical humor and lyrics ensue as she sings, “Please Don’t Touch Me.” And in classic over-the-top Mel Brooks’ style, the song culminates with all the ladies on stage singing in unison, “Don’t touch our tits.”
I absolutely fell in love with Igor, pronounced “eye-gor” not “ee-gor.” Played by Cory English, the clad-all-in-black, hunched-backed, creepy assistant is a site to behold as he sings and dances Broadway show tunes like “Together Again.” He’s adorable, loveable and perhaps, even a tad gay (he suggests the dark castle could use some decorative throw pillows).
Once in Transylvania, we meet the Swedish bombshell, Inga (Anne Horack) who wants to be Dr. Frankenstein’s lab assistant, but doesn’t have much qualifications to offer, other than her “assets.” Although she’s no Terri Garr (who nailed the comedic role in the movie version), Horack does an adequate job, especially in the “Roll in the Hay” number where campy, tongue-in-cheek sexual innuendos abound.
Frau Blucher (Joanna Glushak), the prim and spooky castle housekeeper, scores major marks in the sidesplitting, cabaret-style act, “He Vas My Boyfriend” referring to the late Victor Von Frankenstein. And just like the movie version, the horses get spooked every time they hear her name “Frau Blucher” — and for some reason, it’s still funny!
One of the major highlights of the show is Brad Oscar as the Hermit. It’s a small scene, but Oscar’s outstanding performance is larger than life. He’s a blind man, living alone in the woods and desperately lonely. He sings “Please Send Me Someone” but when “that someone” turns out to be The Monster (well-played by Shuler Hensley), the action that follows is an absolute riot. The blind Hermit graciously but very clumsily pours everything from hot soup, to wine, to fire on The Monster. Susan Stroman nails the direction in this scene.
But the show-stopper of show-stoppers is “Puttin’ on the Ritz,” the humorous, tap-dancing duet performed with top hat and cane by Dr. Frankenstein and the inarticulate, foot-clomping Monster. This classic number does not disappoint.
Although the production uses unique lighting to heighten dramatic moments, special effects are pretty much kept to a minimum. With a strong plot, great music and the comedic genius of Mel Brooks, Young Frankenstein lives and breathes on its own accord. This is an absolute must-see for any theater-goer.
Now through July 25th
Golden Gate Theater