Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Review: YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN Is Monstrous Great Fun At Toby's In Columbia

Review: YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN Is Monstrous Great Fun At Toby's In Columbia

It is Press Night at Toby's Dinner Theatre, and I have my usual easy time of parking in the ample lot. I enter to greetings by friendly staff, anticipating the featured show-themed special drink, which is often a frozen slushy concoction, and today is decorated with a gummy brain. YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, THE MUSICAL is packed with horrifying puns, die-laughing comedy, frightfully fabulous wigs, knock-em-dead singing and every iconic line you loved from the movie, some of which, it may interest you to know, were improvised by the original film actors.

But first, dinner. The tiered seating around the floor that's both stage and buffet area gives a good view to every guest, though it's snug, so prepare to be friendly. The buffet offers plenty of variety, and includes salad bar, shrimp cocktail and a basket of wonderful bread. I'm always a fan of the cole slaw and of Toby's signature spinach dish, Spinach Funque.

I loved Young Frankenstein and am antiquated enough that I saw it in the movie theatre when it was new, the brainchild of Gene Wilder, co-written by himself and Mel Brooks. Now, I'm not of the opinion that all beloved treasures of media need to become Broadway musicals, but the success of Les Miserables, Wicked, Ghost and Matilda, make musicalization an attractive opportunity, to such an extent that Heathers is not only possible, but viable. I'm concerned that I'll find the musical numbers irrelevant and annoying. They are neither, but instead excellently written and comically performed.

YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, script, music and lyrics written by Mel Brooks with an assist on the dialogue from Thomas Meehan, at Toby's is an immersive treat. The in-the-round production style, deftly managed by Director-Choreographer Mark Minnick, keeps action lively and quick paced, without feeling rushed or frenetic.

Musical Director and Orchestrator Ross Scott Rawlings does a fine job with the score. The live mini-orchestra has great timing and is amplified perfectly, rich and full without overpowering the voices of the actors. The violinist has a particularly active role in this show, so kudos to Patricia Wnek for excellent delivery. You may not notice how well Sound Designer Corey Brown has done, which is exactly the point.

In fact, the production values of all facets of this show are praiseworthy, supporting the story in all ways very smoothly and subtly, allowing the audience to focus on the drama and the actors therein.

The actors! When we first meet Igor, I am certain that actor David James will steal the show. When Inga is introduced, however, I believe Louisa Tringalli may steal the show. But when Tess Rohan as Frau Blucher delivers her rousing solo, I realize I can't decide, and it's obviously an organized heist. My avid fondness for Gene Wilder aside, I truly enjoy the remarkable presence of talented Jeffrey Shankle, who does a wonderful job portraying Frederick Frankenstein, his sturdy, earnest delivery giving credibility to his intention to have nothing whatsoever to do with his ancestors or their legacy. As the Monster, newcomer to Toby's Dinner Theatre Christopher Kabara is exactly as sweetly pathetic as he ought to be, and wins the collective heart of the audience immediately.

The atmosphere of Transylvania, the setting of most of the action, manages to infuse Toby's with an eerie, foreboding, yet still comic, feeling. Scenic and lighting designer David Hopkins manages to create a damp chilly feeling for the village, though the theatre is a perfectly comfortable environment.

I am frequently pleased with the quality, look and overall conception of costuming at Toby's, but these, based on William Ivey Long's original vision for the inaugural production of the show, are far beyond nice and well into resplendent, some, particularly the ensembles of Elizabeth, (played with great charisma by Toby's initiate Alicia Osbourne), are actually dazzling. And the wigs. Did I mention the wigs? Great wigs. Seriously excellent wigs.

If you suspect you'll want more drinks delivered during Intermission, order them before your actor/server leaves to change for the show. Servers will drop and pick up checks at Intermission, but ordering anything else isn't an option. Really, it's a bathroom break. The line for the ladies' room is intimidatingly long, but it moves briskly. Despite the many visitors, it is tidy and bright.

Act 2 of YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN contains fewer gems of song and dance than Act 1, but what they lack in number, they compensate in charm and naughty humor. "Deep Love" goes exactly where you think it will, and the action swivels around to a very satisfying conclusion.

Advisement to the prudish: this show, which includes adult situations and a great deal of classic Mel Brooks raunchiness, may not be quite to your taste. For the rest of you, YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN is a lighthearted romp of a show, a real roll in the hay, and electrifyingly witty.

YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, THE MUSICAL plays at Toby's through March 11th. Avoid horrified screams of disappointment- purchase tickets today!

Toby's Dinner Theatre is in Columbia, Maryland, easily accessed from 29 Southbound, with plenty of free parking all around the building.

Toby's Dinner Theatre of Columbia

5900 Symphony Woods Road

Columbia, MD 21044

For additional information including pricing, buffet menu and directions, visit www.tobysdinnertheatre.com.

For tickets, phone the box office at 410-730-8311, 301-596-6161 or 1-800-88-TOBYS 10 am - 9 pm. Doors open at 6pm Tuesday through Saturday evenings, with dinner from 6:30-7:20 for an 8 pm showtime. Wednesday and Sunday Matinees, the buffet is 10:30-11:50 am for a 12:30 pm show. Sunday evening supper is at 5:30 pm, with a 7 pm showtime. The show runs about one and a half hours, including a 20 minute intermission.

Pictured above: Christopher Kabara as The Monster, Jeffrey Shenkle as Dr. Frederick Frankenstein, Louisa Tringalli as Inga and David James as Igor.

Photo Credit: Jeri Tidwell Photography



Ensemble Announced For Olneys THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR Photo
Olney Theatre Center has announced the quartet of actors performing in The Most Wonderful Time of the Year, a special 90-minute variety show created and directed by Kevin McAllister just for Olney Theatre Center that runs December 16 - December 31, 2022 in its 1938 Original Theatre.

National Philharmonic Presents HANDELS MESSIAH This December Photo
National Philharmonic (NatPhil) presents three performances of George Frideric Handel's Messiah, aimed at bringing renewed social relevance, commentary, and philanthropy to an annual holiday tradition. Conducted by Stan Engebretson, the program features a stellar cast of African American singers alongside the National Philharmonic Chorale.

Tickets For HADESTOWN At The Hippodrome Are On Sale Now Photo
​​​​​​​Hadestown, the winner of eight 2019 Tony Awards including Best New Musical and the 2020 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album, will come to Baltimore's historic Hippodrome Theatre at the France-Merrick Performing Arts Center April 11-16, 2023.

Review: PLAY IS THE THING FOR GUESTS OF CSCS CAPULET COSTUME BALL, HONORING THEATER COMPAN Photo
What did our critic think of PLAY IS THE THING FOR GUESTS OF CSC’S CAPULET COSTUME BALL, HONORING THEATER COMPANY’S 20TH at Chesapeake Shakespeare Company?


From This Author - Cybele Pomeroy


Review: Shakespeare's Tricky Dick RICHARD III Proves A Crooked Villain at The StrandReview: Shakespeare's Tricky Dick RICHARD III Proves A Crooked Villain at The Strand
November 12, 2022

The Maryland Renaissance Festival and The Strand partner to present a one-weekend encore of the acclaimed RICHARD III by The Company Of Women. The Company are a force of craftswomanship the likes of which have not before been seen in Baltimore theater, and display a strong likelihood of becoming a major theatrical presence in the community.

Review: Happenstance Theater's POCKET MOXIE at Theater ProjectReview: Happenstance Theater's POCKET MOXIE at Theater Project
November 3, 2022

In a tribute to Vaudeville, Happenstance Theater presents POCKET MOXIE. Structured as a Vaudeville show, it's also a show about Vaudevillians, a secret peek into their lives, and the arcs of their days. Infused with music and humor, artistic creativity and a dash of pathos, it's visually sumptuous, stylistically consistent and imminently watchable.

Stand Up, Dress Up And Show Up For THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW At DoodleHATCH in ColumbiaStand Up, Dress Up And Show Up For THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW At DoodleHATCH in Columbia
October 27, 2022

THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW, book, lyrics and music by Richard O'Brien, is his homage to B movies of horror and science fiction. This fantastical romp of a musical is packed with archetypal characters, hackneyed tropes and references that should have no resonance with contemporary youth. It's been a cult favorite for its entire half-century existence.

Review: VARIATIONS, a Baltimore Constant, Ponders CHANGE in 2022
October 3, 2022

VARIATIONS ON CHANGE, the 2022 iteration of the longtime Baltimore VARIATIONS project, demonstrates diversity and inclusion in subject matter, participation, cast and production folx at Motor House in Baltimore's Station North Arts District. Audiences choose by vote the 2023 theme of VARIATIONS.

Review: Suspend Your Disbelief: See GHOST THE MUSICAL At Toby's In ColumbiaReview: Suspend Your Disbelief: See GHOST THE MUSICAL At Toby's In Columbia
September 26, 2022

GHOST THE MUSICAL at Toby’s Dinner Theater in Columbia, based 1990's movie Ghost, starring Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze, offers romance, drama and retro vibes. The 1955 tune “Unchained Melody” strings the whole thing together. Cast and orchestra are harmonic and wonderfully watchable. Production values are excellent and dinner is delicious.