BWW Review: YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN: It's ALIVE at Walnut Street Theatre
When you see Halloween decorations lining the aisles of every store, you may groan -- autumn has hardly begun!
But at the Walnut Street Theatre, spooky season is in full swing, and you won't be sorry for it. Their production of Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein -- a United States premiere of the new and improved version that debuted in the U.K. -- is delightful to watch and proves Walnut Street Theatre's continued dedication to producing top-notch entertainment.
Young Frankenstein is exactly what the title suggests -- Dr. Frankenstein of the famous Mary Shelley novel has died. His grandson, who insists he is not like his grandfather, whose monsters terrorized the city of Transylvania, returns to the mansion where it all went down.
Robert Kovach artfully maneuvered designing a set that could serve many scene changes and transfer seamlessly between the village streets of Transylvania, Frankenstein's estate and a glittering vaudeville stage. He/she was able to innovate in America's oldest theatre that typically doesn't support more modern set design. Young Frankenstein featured flying lab beds, layers of backdrops and set pieces that seemed to magically move on automated tracks across the stage -- but the Walnut does not have tracked stages. The design was whimsical and exciting, much like the musical itself.
At times, the Walnut is guilty of casting the same actors over and over again, to the point where it can seem familiarity wins out over fitting a role. However, Walnut Street Theatre perfectly meshed new and old faces in Young Frankenstein. Younger actors like Luke Bradt (Igor) was a a scene stealer who could hold his own. Bradt captured the audience in one slapstick scene in which he steps on a brain -- one that almost definitely earned him a standing ovation at the curtain call.
Philly-favorite Ben Dibble starred as Dr. Frankenstein. Although his performance was well-executed, I expected more from him. His Frankenstein was basic and one-dimensional. His triple-threat talent that makes him such a hot commodity in the city did not go unnoticed, but because he is so well known, I believe he has to work twice as hard to wow. However, Walnut regulars like Mary Martello (Frau Blucher) and veteran ensemble members found something new to bring to the lab table in Young Frankenstein.
Though Mel Brooks' extremely specific humor is not for everyone, I wholly recommend Walnut Street Theatre's Young Frankenstein. This season opener's production value may be one of the theater's best and sets a high bar for the rest of the year.