Entertainment » Theatre

Young Frankenstein

by Steven  Skelley
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Monday Mar 26, 2012
Dr. Frankenstein and the Monster in "Young Frankenstein"
Dr. Frankenstein and the Monster in "Young Frankenstein"   (Source: Paul Kolnik)

When Mary Shelley wrote her horror masterpiece "Frankenstein" in 1818, she could not have imagined that a comedic genius named Mel Brooks would bring it back to life 156 years later as a riotously risqué, award-winning movie and play.

I was 11 years old when Brooks' "Young Frankenstein" hit the theaters with its irreverent humor and an amazing cast including Gene Wilder, Cloris Leachman, Peter Boyle, Madeline Kahn, and Marty Feldman. Film critics have called it one of the funniest movies of all time.

The musical version of "Young Frankenstein" was enjoyed on Broadway for nearly 500 performances and is now on national tour. I wondered, quite honestly, if the stage production could match the wonderful, madcap silliness of the classic movie that I remembered so fondly.

There was nothing to worry about. The stage production of "Young Frankenstein" not only holds its own, but it also had our audience laughing uncontrollably, cheering repeatedly, and rewarding the cast with a standing ovation.

The story line is a parody of Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein." In the Mel Brooks' version, a brilliant, young Dr. Frankenstein (or Fronkensteen, as he prefers to be called) attempts to complete his grandfather's work and bring a corpse to life.

He is assisted by a hunchback named Igor (who prefers to be called Eye-gor). Igor's back hump relocates quite obviously from one side to the other, depending on the scene.

Young Dr. Frankenstein leaves his cold-fish fiancée Elizabeth at home and moves into his grandfather's Transylvanian castle, where he meets the horse-frightening Frau Blucher and a blonde, hottie lab assistant named Inga.

Town constable Inspector Kemp watches his every move carefully, not wanting a repeat of the monster-making disaster Frankenstein's grandfather brought upon the town.

Frankenstein discovers his grandfather's secret laboratory and begins to piece together his own human with the aid of Igor, Inga, and Frau Blucher. His plan is to place the brain of a brilliant man into his creation -- but Igor accidentally steps on the brain and secretly replaces it with one labeled abnormal, which he thinks is the guy's name: A.B. Normal.

The monster is brought to life, but doesn't have the intelligence Frankenstein had planned. What he does have is an irrational fear of fire and a reportedly "enormous schwanstuker" (Brooks-speak for a huge penis).

What happens when you take a dash of Robert Downey, Jr.’s good looks and add a touch of the lovable lunacy of Gene Wilder? You get A.J. Holmes’ riotous recipe for Dr. Frederick Frankenstein. Loved it!

Dr. Frankenstein falls for Inga. Elizabeth arrives unexpectedly and finds them in bed together. Elizabeth has sex with the monster and falls for his enormous schwanstuker. The Inspector thinks the monster has killed Elizabeth and organizes a lynch mob to capture him.

Frankenstein risks a dangerous experimental "intelligence transfer" between himself and the monster. In the end, the experiment is a success. The monster gets Dr. Frankenstein's genius I.Q. and Frankenstein gets the monster's enormous schwanstuker.

The "Young Frankenstein" stage production features nearly two dozen songs with hilarious tongue-in-cheek themes. Inga shares "Roll in The Hay" while riding in the back of a hay wagon with Dr. Frankenstein. Frankenstein and Igor sing "Join the Family Business." Frau Blucher sings the innuendo-laden "He Vas My Boyfriend" about her affair with grandfather Frankenstein. Elizabeth sings "Deep Love" about...well...the Monster's enormous schwanstuker.

The Monster sings "Puttin' On The Ritz" while wearing an enormous tuxedo and twirling a cane. The songs fit perfectly into each scene and, when combined with fun, over-the-top presentation and choreography, they had our audience laughing throughout and applauding each number enthusiastically.

The cast includes A.J. Holmes as Dr. Frederick Frankenstein, Rory Donovan as The Monster, Christopher Timson as Igor, Britt Hancock as Inspector Kemp/Blind Hermit, Lexie Dorsett as Elizabeth, Pat Sibley as Frau Blucher, and Elizabeth Pawlowski as Inga. I actually enjoyed this cast's take on the material just as much as I enjoyed the cast from the classic movie.

What happens when you take a dash of Robert Downey, Jr.'s good looks and add a touch of the lovable lunacy of Gene Wilder? You get A.J. Holmes' riotous recipe for Dr. Frederick Frankenstein. Loved it!

Rory Donovan somehow made the Frankenstein monster so likeable that the women behind me kept exclaiming, "Aw! He's so cute!"

Pat Sibley's portrayal of Frau Blucher was both frightful and delightful.

Christopher Timson's dancing and singing Igor was downright hilarious and an obvious highlight of the show.

Pawlowski and Dorsett showed off their impressive pipes on their vocals and just the right touch on their comedy lines.

And when Britt Hancock's Inspector Kemp asked Brett Figel's Village Idiot Ziggy what the town needed most and Ziggy replied "A gay bar?" the audience howled in laughter and actually cheered.

"Young Frankenstein" was performed on March 24 at the The King Center, 3865 N. Wickham Road in Melbourne, Florida, as part of their national tour. For info on the King Center, visit http://www.kingcenter.com. For info or tickets to upcoming performances, visit www.youngfrankensteinthemusical.com.

Steven Skelley is a published author of several nonfiction works and the novella The Gargoyle Scrolls. He has been a newspaper columnist, travel writer, news writer, music director, creative arts director, theater reviewer and tennis instructor.


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