BWW Reviews: Standing Room Only Productions' YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN is Frothy, Fun Entertainment

After the success of THE PRODUCERS, Mel Brooks gave YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN the Broadway treatment. The ribald musical comedy had it's pre-Broadway try out at the Paramount Theatre in Seattle, Washington. It began previews on Broadway on October 11, 2007 and opened at the Foxwoods Theatre (then named the Hilton Theatre) on November 8. The show closed after 485 performances on January 4, 2009. The production launched two national tours, with the Second National Tour closing on May 31, 2012. Rights to the musical became available to regional theaters shortly thereafter, and many ballsy theatre companies are gladly taking on the ambitious project.

Standing Room Only Productions' current presentation of YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (officially titled THE NEW Mel Brooks' MUSICAL YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN) excels in the ambition department. They've chopped the cast size down to 12 and perform the show in front of a series of projected illustrated backdrops. For all of you doubters, this approach works. Without all the accoutrements of the Broadway and national tour budgets that imbued the production with spectacle, SRO's scaled back and intimate approach proves that the writing the for the musical is actually good, letting it stand on its own without expensive gimmicks and trickery.

For any comedy, but especially one penned by Mel Brooks, the key is timing. In performance, it is obvious that pacing was on the forefront of Wayne Landon's mind. The projected backdrops make for quick scene changes that keep the show zipping along. Likewise, he has coached his cast to deliver the lines with the gusto and urgency required to draw forth laughs, chuckles, grins, and smiles. The second act of the production dips a little, but this is the fault of the book. In each of the three productions I have seen of the musical, the second act drags its feet a bit as Mel Brooks crams a lot of material in to ensure that the finale works.

Starring as Dr. Frederick Frankenstein, Tyler Galindo delights the audience with his pleasant, brain-obsessed scholar turned raving scientist. Tyler Galindo's mad scientist shtick leaves the audience in stitches. Moreover, his clean and clear tenor voice shines brightly on numbers like "Life, Life," "Man About Town," and "Frederick's Soliloquy." He also doesn't stumble on the intricate tongue twister lyrics of "The Brain."

Both Brad Zimmerman's Igor and Michael Raabe's The Monster give the audiences everything they are looking for. Igor is zany, bumbling, and awkward. The Monster is oafish and inarticulate. Both men embrace their characters through Mel Brooks' distinctive brand of comedy and put together performances that are amusing. Brad Zimmerman delights with "Together Again for the First Time" and Michael Raabe impresses with competent tap during the much anticipated "Puttin' On The Ritz."

Additionally, the three key women in the show are played well. Susan Bray's Frau Blucher is my favorite performance of the evening, earning my heartiest laughs with her screwball line delivery and facial expressions. Singing, "He Vas My Boyfriend," she commands attention and owns the stage. Playing Elizabeth, Robin Van Zandt embodies the madcap aspects of the role. She perfectly contorts her face and vocally channels Bernadette Peters' litheness and the belt of Patti LuPone to create a whimsical diva. Her renditions of "Please Don't Touch Me," "Surprise," and "Deep Love" are all powerfully sung showstoppers. Liz Tinder's Inga is the right mix of sweet, fun, and spirited. She also sings with a beautiful soprano instrument. However, her performance came across as weak at last night's opening performance. Her yodeling wasn't as lively and zesty as I've heard previous Inga's do, and despite being the show's choreographer she appeared to have some difficulty with the tap routine in "Puttin' On The Ritz."

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David Clarke David Clarke has had a lifelong love and passion for the performing arts, and has been writing about theatre both locally and nationally for years. He joined running their Houston site in early 2012 and began writing as the site's official theatre recording critic in June of 2013.

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