BWW Reviews: Fringe Review: GIRAFFENSTEIN, Frankenstein with Singing and Dancing Giraffes
This original one-act pop musical aims high and often hits its mark although it may not be the musical you think it's going to be. While it contains a fair amount of wry humor, don't expect the kind of silliness you found in The Pokemusical, the team's entry into last year's Fringe Festival. This twist on the Frankenstein story has a more sophisticated harmonic structure and a richer musical texture that gives it an edge while still delivering a lot of fun for the money.
The ensemble handles the singing beautifully and there is plenty of funny choreography and quirky direction. It's an all-animal cast so they've also found creative ways to modify their appearances which makes for some great sight gags. Forearm crutches, high heels and grease paint are the main elements for the giraffes; boot walker casts and football shoulder pads complete Josh Hillinger's transformation into a rhino; and rhinestones, black leather pants and fur turn Seth Salsbury into the kind of lion who would be completely at home in a revival of CATS. (Someone cast that boy in Rocky Horror Picture Show already. He'd make a great Frank N. Furter).
GIRAFFENSTEIN follows the callous Dr. Giraffenstein (James Penca) and his failed attempts to create a superior being, in this case the first giraffe who can eat from the top of the tree, and raises questions about how much responsibility we have to that which we create. When its jokes land it is hilarious but the humor is still hit or miss.
The tone of the book is often quite dark and there are gaps in the story that could use more explanation. It's unclear why the doctor's fiancé (Katharine Kelly McDonough) agreed to marry him in the first place since all she does is complain about him or why the Monster (Edred Utomi) tells Dr. Giraffenstein he'll never see him again but then comes back to confront him near the end of the story. The show currently has a running time of about 75 minutes so there is plenty of room for it to expand. Odd though it is, GIRAFFENSTEIN still has a lot going for it.
There are lessons about acceptance and standing up for yourself, as well as how important it is to find a place we can call home. Technically, this is also a good example of how to create a movable set on a budget that gets the job done and still delights with its ingenuity. Two reversible set pieces are hand-painted to create the expansiveness of the Serengeti and they even manage to make the sun rise in a creative way.
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Photo credit: Rich Clark