BWW Reviews: Woodlawn Theatre's YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN is a Monstrous Good Time
It's alive! Woodlawn Theatre's current production of Young Frankenstein, the Mel Brooks musical based on his hit 1974 film, is enjoyable and entertaining, perhaps more than it should be considering the mediocre material. But despite the few flaws in the material, this is one monster of a good time.
The stage version of Young Frankenstein is incredibly faithful to Brooks's irreverent, hysterical film. After the death of his grandfather, Doctor Frederick Frankenstein (that's FRANC-en-steen), goes to Transylvania to settle the estate. While Frederick's tried to distance himself from his infamous family, he quickly makes an about face and decides to continue his grandfather's quest to reanimate dead tissue.
While Brooks is a comedic genius, sadly this material isn't as strong as The Producers, his first foray into musical theater. While The Producers makes you laugh till it hurts, Young Frankenstein makes you chuckle pleasantly, provided you can overlook Brooks's pedestrian score and predictable lyrics. Still, some lines and gags from the film, such as the sound of neighing horses every time a certain name is mentioned, manage to elicit laugh after laugh.
Sure, the material could be stronger, but the Woodlawn's cast and creative team have created memorable shows out of less. Director/Choreographer Christopher Rodriguez keeps the show going at a steady pace, ensures the jokes land, and throws in a few splashy numbers, and the set is an absolute marvel. Woodlawn's resident set designers, Kurt Wehner and Benjamin Grabill, have outdone themselves here. Castle Frankenstein is a behemoth of a set, and it will be a treat to see it transform into that other Frankenstein place for The Rocky Horror Show.
The production also benefits from five gifted performers and comedians at the core of the show. Amanda Golden is a scene stealer as Elizabeth, Frederick's "adorable madcap fiancée" who craves sexual attention from everyone but Frederick. As Frau Blucher, Melissa Gonzalez is deliciously over-the-top, and it's clear that she has fun with a role that mixes comedy, camp, and creepiness. Likewise, Ben Scharff is hysterical as Frederick's henchman, Igor. Scharff is part character actor part song and dance man, two qualities that make Igor the perfect role for him.
Rounding out the leading roles are Walter Songer as Frederick and Kate Miller as his sexy assistant, Inga. Both are quite strong performers well deserving of lead roles. Miller has the ingénue look and sound and delivers her comedic moments well. It's fun to see Songer, who normally plays memorable supporting roles, as a lead, and his voice is thrilling as always. The downfall is that these two leads, surprisingly, do not have much to do. In The Producers, both leads received a couple of big numbers (it's well known that Nathan Lane even demanded a big "Rose's Turn"-like song for Act II) but here the memorable tunes go to the supporting characters, and the leads fade into The Shadows. While there's no question that Miller and Songer are dynamic enough to play starring roles, they deserve stronger ones than these.
Though the text and score may have its issues, Woodlawn's production of Young Frankenstein far outshines the material. Mel Brooks hands them lemons, and Woodlawn makes a delicious, green-tinted lemonade.
Note: As with most Mel Brooks material, Young Frankenstein is recommended for mature audiences only.
YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN plays the Woodlawn Theatre at 1920 Fredericksburg Road, San Antonio 78201 now thru November 3rd. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30pm and Sundays at 3pm. Tickets are $15-$23. For tickets and information, visit www.woodlawntheatre.org.