BWW Review: YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN Is Alive and Puttin' On the Ritz at 3D Theatricals
Young Frankenstein/book by Mel Brooks & Thomas Meehan/music & lyrics by Mel Brooks/original direction recreated by David Lamoureux/original choreography recreated by Daniel Smith/musical director: Corey Hirsch/3-D Theatricals at Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center/through October 15/October 20-29 at Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts
I revert to childhood when I see a Mel Brooks movie or show. The sillier the better: the sight gags, the double entendres, the more the merrier. The New Mel Brooks Musical, Young Frankenstein is a real rip-roaring hoot of a show from start to finish as produced by 3-D Theatricals with a great cast and zippy fast-paced direction and fine staging from David Lamoureux, recreating the original of Susan Stroman and Daniel Smith recreating her choreography.
When the show played New York, it fared poorly with critics and many audiences claimed emphatically that it just wasn't worth it, so not to waste your money and time. New York is hard on Hollywood people, so the claims seem extreme, unfounded and unfair to the sense of humor that the piece puts out. If you like Brooks' zany, campy over-the-top, fantastical satire, you can't help but love it. All the famous lines from the film are intact, and the songs add extra flair, including more of the funny lines and moving the story forward, like Elizabeth's "Please Don't Touch Me". Of course, the film version is incomparable. No one can replace Gene Wilder, Madeline Kahn, Teri Garr, Cloris Leachman and Marty Feldman. They all gave superb performances for the camera. Leachman's Ovaltine scene is so memorable because of the subtle things she did with her eyes and voice. On stage, the performance must be bigger and broadeR. Wilder had a unique delivery that relied on a look with his eyes, as did Marty Feldman... one smile with those bulging Feldman eyes was enough to make anyone fall off his seat. However, the stage show has to be even wilder and grander in scope and has its own set of pluses to delight.
Take for example this delightful cast. Dino Nicandros makes Frederick Frankenstein totally his own with his dead.on deadpan, yet believably natural delivery. Erik Scott Romney is physically and comedically hilarious as Igor and Danny Blaylock makes the Monster an agile and lovable piece of work. Richard Gould is a hoot in double duty as Inspector Kemp and as the lonely blind Hermit. He is another deliciously quaint actor who has a ball with the oddity of the role. His "Please Send Me Someone" is spot.on believable and hilarious. All the ladies make the female characters distinct. Julia Aks is a delight as Inga, luscious and vulnerably winning; Aswhley Fox-Linton is stunning as Elizabeth and really pours out her feelings in "Deep Love". Tracy Rowe Mutz makes Frau Blucher totally her own creation. Her over-the-top diva is the typical Brooksian woman, full of sexual mischief - a real spitfire. She takes even more risks with her aggressive moves like rubbing her hands in between Elizabeth's legs. Her "He Vas My Boyfriend" hits the mark with just the right moves and genuine feeling. The entire ensemble work magically under Smith's quick, flashy choreography, especially noted in "Puttin' On the Ritz", "Join the Family Business" and "Transylvania Mania".
NETworks provide the dynamite scenic design and fine period costumes, to Jean Ives-Tessier for some terrific lighting effects and to Julie Ferrin for sound design. An appropriate set is so vital to the success of this kind of show. The laboratory with its gadgets and operating table, the castle exterior, the scary woods, the quaint old streets of Transylvania Heights - it's all here in simplistic form, except the castle staircase, most difficult to replicate on a stage.
Brooks' music , like his songs for The Producers, are tuneful and upbeat. They titillate while we're listening, even if we do not hum them the next day. "Together Again for Frederick and Igor is reminiscent of Bialystock and Bloom and "Deep Love" is deliriously smutty. The book makes cuts where appropriate for the stage without losing a smidgeon of the storyline.
"Woof! It's going to be very popular." sort of sums up the whole proceedings. Young Frankenstein should sell out houses for 3-D Theatricals, especially now with Halloween around the corner. This is a giant, crowd-pleasing show that will tickle your funny bone, or at least make you smile about every five seconds.
(photo credit: Caught In the Moment Photography)