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BWW Review: YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN AT VINTAGE WILL LEAVE YOU IN STITCHES at Vintage Theatre

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Young Frankenstein runs at Vintage Theatre September 17 - Oct. 31, 2021.

BWW Review: YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN AT VINTAGE WILL LEAVE YOU IN STITCHES at Vintage Theatre

My senior year of high school, my final literature class book report was on Mary Shelley's gothic novel, Frankenstein. Since then, I've read that book probably three or four times. For some reason, I always come back to the rather dark tale that inspired later projects such as the Mel Brooks comedy movie, Young Frankenstein. That movie would go on to inspire its musical version, which we find to be Vintage Theatre's latest production.

Under the direction of Linda Suttle, the cast and crew of Young Frankenstein collectively provide a sense of comic relief so desperately needed amidst our real world circumstances. Though, some aspects of the production far outshine the others. The highest praise must go to the three leading ladies in the cast who all so brilliantly brought the "camp" needed for this show. Colby Reisinger is one who very clearly understood the assignment. As the voluptuous Inga, Reisinger playfully commands every scene she is in which includes a masterclass in yodeling. As Frau Blucher, Christine Kahane, so too, is at home in her role as the ever-suspecting house keeper. Kahane's comedic timing is on full display and will leave you with a smile on your face. As the, "look but don't touch" fiancé, Elizabeth, Miranda Byers is the right amount of camp mixed with glamour. Her vocals are also a standout, especially during the "eleven o'clock" number, "Deep Love," in the second act.

In the duo roles of Inspector Kemp and the Hermit, Scotty Shaffer is also quite captivating, especially with his physical comedy gimmicks. What I appreciated most was the significant contrast in the style of comedy between the roles. As the infamous Monster himself, Jeff Betsch is, for a lack of a better phrase, really quite endearing in the "non-speaking" role. For a role that relies on sounds and gestures, especially in a more intimate space, Betsch takes the material and does more than just make it jump off the page. It almost harkens back to the original Mary Shelley gothic novel in the sense that the monster never views himself as a such - simply a misunderstood creature who never asked to be created; a victim of someone else's demented nature. Bryan Plummer as Igor also settles in comfortably as what feels like the real, structured, comic relief in a comedy musical. As the titular character, Dr. Frederick Frankenstein, Cooper Kaminsky is a clear veteran performer. What is missing for me, however, is the level of "camp" needed for this role. Kaminsky takes a more realistic approach to their interpretation of the doctor, which sort of misses the point when the joke is "I'm not crazy like my relatives - now let me tell you about how much I love the brain." There were also some comedic timing moments that didn't land, specifically the repeated joke referring to Inga's - I mean Inga. Though, I would be remiss not to mention Kaminsky's expert vocals that always brought it back home.

My biggest critiques are mostly with the creative elements of the show. Costume Design by Deborah Faber was rather hit or miss. Some costumes, especially among the ladies, were on par while others seemed a bit sloppy. Igor's costuming, specifically, consisted of blacks that didn't match in the form of a sweatshirt, sweatpants, and black dress shoes where boots would have been a more appropriate choice for the character. Set Design by Ryan Walkoviak, with additional work by Glenn Grassi, mostly worked for the smaller theatre space, though at times was loud and clunky, especially during scene changes. At one point, cast members continued to sing over a scene change that was happening in the background which ultimately pulled attention away from the choral/barbershop moment. Music Direction by Brandon Bill was a highlight among the creative elements, though the stage blocking by director Linda Suttle, especially in ensemble numbers, didn't entirely provide an opportunity to take everything in as a collective sound. What ends up happening when the cast stands in a straight line across the stage in a space that is not acoustically sound is audience members only hear the singer directly in front of them. So although the tenor standing two feet from me sounds lovely, I miss out on the other parts including the dominant melody. Choreography by Adrianne Hampton struggled in similar ways. Because the audience sits so closely to the stage and thus the actors, the larger staging of dance numbers with all the cast members felt way too close and at times messy. What could have been a great moment to highlight the best 3-5 tappers in the second act ended up sounding cluttered and chaotic.

Overall, I think the biggest take away is to consider the space you are in when staging a production. Young Frankenstein is no small feat and perhaps that is something to consider as well in terms of what shows will not just work in a space, but work best in a space. It was nice, however, to escape for few hours and travel down to Transylvania.

Young Frankenstein runs at Vintage Theatre September 17 - Oct. 31, 2021. For tickets, visit VintageTheatre.org.


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