by Beki Pineda
YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN – Music and Lyrics by Mel Brooks; Book by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan; Directed by Linda Suttle. Produced by Vintage Theatre (1468 Dayton, Aurora) through October 31. Tickets available at 303-856-7830 or vintagetheatre.com.
Anne Bancroft, Mel Brook’s wife for 41 years, once remarked that “I get excited when I hear his key in the door. It’s like, “Ooh, the party’s going to start.” That’s the same emotion theatre-goers are experiencing as they enter Vintage Theatre for a performance of Brooks’ classic YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (pronounced Frahn-kin-steen). All the old familiar characters are present from the 1974 movie: Inga (the temptress); Frau Blucher (whose mere name brings panic to the horses); Igor with the movable hump; Elizabeth (the doctor’s madcap fiancee); and the Monster himself (made up of bits and pieces but dances like a Rockette).
Frederick Frankenstein’s grandfather (the original monster maker) has died leaving him the old homestead castle with the lab and instructions on how to build a monster. Despite his misgivings, he goes to Transylvania to settle his family affairs and gets drawn into his own . . . affair, that is. The evening is adorned with dancing villagers, family ghosts, hidden passages, lusty hayrides, boiled cabbage and Ritz-a-rama. This whole production is about raunchy fun and raucous laughter with a few embarrassed giggles thrown in.
The cast lifts the show above parody into a polished performance. You have to have a strong reliable Frankenstein or you’re sunk. Vintage has found one in Cooper Kaminsky (ironic since Mel Brooks was born Melvin Kaminsky – how the world goes round!) who is a born clown reveling in sight gags and one-liners. Cooper guides the rest of the cast down to the castle basement and up to the stars with a strong voice, comic timing and fearlessness.
Keeping up with the wackiness of Miranda Byers as Frederick’s beautiful self-centered fiancee and the bold bouncy Colby Reisinger as Inga keeps the rest of the cast on their toes. These two actresses are as giant as the Monster in terms of their talent, sliding into flirtatious to wistful to angry/hurt with the ease of donning a glove. Miranda’s dark charm and winsome manner makes her a natural for the woman who sings “Please Don’t Touch Me.” Colby’s blonde Nordic beauty provides a contrast with her faux innocence and sexy but healthy outlook on life and love. Her anthem, in contrast to Elizabeth, is “Listen to your Heart.” When is someone going to do SUGAR so this woman can play a funny Marilyn Monroe??
Christine Kahane and Bryan Plummer as Frau Blucher and Igor are so perfectly suited for their roles in look and personality that it’s forgivable that they were not as strong vocally as some of the others. But when Christine proclaims “He Was My Boyfriend,” you rejoice with her.
A talented ensemble member stepped into the spotlight to play Frederick’s grandfather come back to life to offer advice. Logan Traver led the action in “Join the Family Business” with natural ease and command of the stage that foretells bigger and better roles for him in the near future. Most people I talked with after the show did not realize that Scotty Shaffer played the dual roles of Inspector Kemp – damaged by the original Monster and determined to rid the world of Frankenstein’s – and the lonely Hermit who prays “Please Send Me Someone” and then regrets what he wished for. Quite an accomplishment, Scotty. The Monster slowly came to life in the able hands of tall and lovely and green Jeff Betsch. His transition from newborn monster to debonair dancer was fun to watch.
Brandon Bill pulls the seven-piece band into near perfection featuring violin and sax solos and a solid back beat to the singing and dancing that goes on all evening. Kudos to the sound of this ensemble – a worthy accomplishment based on the amount of time they have to rehearse together. This also speaks to the talents of Sound Designer Alex Palmer who keeps the balance between band and singers in perfect sync.
The versatile set featuring movable castle walls, revolving doors, outdoor places for rolls in the hay (yes, plural!), the laboratory where all the damage takes place, and the village square designed by Ryan Walkoviak and built by Jeff Jesmer and his crew moved easily (it seemed) into place from site to site. A perfect show for October, you’ve got until Halloween to catch this one.
A WOW factor of 8.5!!