BWW Reviews: Mel Brooks' Hysterical Musical YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN Is Alive In Simi Valley
It's ALIVE!!! A hilarious, high energy Broadway musical based on the Oscar-nominated smash hit 1974 film, YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN is the wickedly inspired re-imagining of the Mary Shelley classic from the comic genius of Mel Brooks. The show's raucous score includes "The Transylvania Mania," "He Vas My Boyfriend" and the unforgettable treatment of Irving Berlin's "Putting on the Ritz." A Tony award-winner in 2008, YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN is just what the doctor ordered - a real prescription for outlandish humor!
If you are a fan of the movie and have never seen the stage musical, be sure to catch it at The Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center as the show is led by several amazing performers. Most notably are Toby Tropper as Dr. Frederick Frankenstein and Austin Robert Miller as his sidekick Igor. Not only is Tropper a real trooper, he resembles Gene Wilder with his wild hair and wild eye stare as he gets pulled into the dark world of his late Grandfather. Truly he is insane about the brain, as he tells his students before embarking on his life-changing journey to Transylvania. And when he arrives and meets Igor at the train station, the initial duet between these two outrageous goofs, "Together Again for the First Time," sets the scene for the hilarity that follows.
But it is Miller who steals the show as the hunchback Igor, ranting and raving all the while singing and dancing up a storm. All of Igor's jokes from the movie are there, including the moving hump, the numerous calls for "Blucher" which aggravate the horses, and his lascivious leering at Frederick's glamorous fiancée Elizabeth, all handled by Miller with overwhelming joy and dexterity. Like the rest of the cast, Miller is having the time of his life performing in this show. Miller has been seen in several shows at this venue, most notably as Robin in SPAMALOT, another show stopping role for this talented triple threat actor/singer/dancer.
A favorite number in the show was "Roll in the Hay" during which we meet the lovely Christine Tucker as Inga, Dr. Frankenstein's blonde bombshell of an assistant. Tucker makes Inga her own, with loving remembrance to the great Teri Garr who immortalized the role on film. The number is performed with Inga and Frederick in the back of a horse cart filled with hay as Igor drives them along the bumpy road to his Grandfather's castle. With each bump, Tropper and Tucker assume a different sexual pose seemingly through no fault of their own with Igor egging them on, thanks to the brilliant directing of Fred Helsel and Stephen Weston.
Liz Stockton takes on the role of Frau Blucher, the offbeat former assistant to Victor Frankenstein. Her solo "He Vas My Boyfriend" is a hoot, with Stockton flashing her comic chops throughout the number, which also introduces the Monster into the show, with Kevin Ellis filling his giant shoes.
For most of the show, Ellis never utters a word until the show-stopping "Puttin' on the Ritz" which the entire company performs as a magnificent tap routine. Kudos to the inspired choreography by Becky Castells and musical direction by Gary Poirot.
Nick Ferguson plays the dual roles of Inspector Kemp and The Hermit, the role made famous by Gene Hackman in the film. Ferguson has a marvelous voice, bringing real longing into the blind Hermit's rendition of "Please Bring Me Someone" during which the Monster breaks in and is welcomed to a meal, which never quite makes it into his bowl.
Aliya Stuart plays Frederick's madcap fiancée Elizabeth with all the self-absorbed pizzazz necessary to make you love and hate her at the same time. Stuart's lovely voice soars, but it is her comic timing you will remember during each of her numbers, especially when she tells Frederick to "Please Don't Touch Me" as he is boarding the boat and when she decides to "Surprise" Frederick, arriving at his laboratory with her personal styling entourage and Astrologer. And of course there is her famous "Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life" love scene with the Monster!
Rounding out the cast of YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN are Bobby Dantona as Ziggy, Greg Hardash as Dr. Victor Von Frankenstein, and Madison Bales, Lisa Barrad, Ariel Jean Brooker, Sara Marie Calvey, Sharon Gibson, Sarah Karpeles, Leah Millman, and Samantha Wulff in multiple ensemble roles.
This is a big musical with lots of set changes, and the small stage of the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center would seem to be too small to handle the necessary changes, But production/scenic designer Seth Kamenow obviously took on the challenge and succeeded by using multimedia backdrops for many scenes, including bolts of lightning in Fredericks lab, with set changes handled by having other scenes performed in front of the stage curtain, allowing for set changes behind. The production design and directing kept the show moving at a brisk pace, with the cast handling their many Randon Pool-designed costume changes swiftly.
YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN continues through May 25 with performances on Friday and Saturday at 8 pm and Sunday at 2 pm at The Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center, located at 3050 E. Los Angeles Ave, Simi Valley, CA 93065. Tickets are $24 for Adults, $20 for Seniors & Students. However, there is a special Thursday performance on May 15 at 8 with all seats for only $12. To purchase tickets for YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, call the box office at (805) 583-7900. There is lots of adult humor in this musical, so I recommend it for audiences 14 and above.
Photo Credit: JODIE MORSE PHOTOGRAPHY
Austin Robert Miller, Christine Tucker, Elizabeth Stockton
Christine Tucket, Toby Tropper
Austin Robert Miller, Elizabeth Stockton
Christine Tucker, Toby Tropper
Christine Tucket, Aliya Stuart