In what could be Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre’s edgiest production to date, newly appointed artistic director Michael Lasley directs a freakishly entertaining rendition of the 1974 comedy Young Frankenstein, which starred the late Gene Wilder.
When Frederick Frankenstein (say it together: FRONK-en-steen) finds out his great-grandfather, the infamous Victor Frankenstein, has passed away, he inherits Victor’s estate and travels to Transylvania to check out the place. Although he has tried to distance himself from his family history, Frederick can’t help but explore the lab that his great-grandfather worked in, and ends up creating a new experiment of his own. Before you know it, that new creation, known as “The Monster,” is getting his freak on.
Meanwhile, Inspector Kemp, a town police official, tries to put an end to the Frankenstein family and is furious when he finds out that Frederick has created another monster in the same way Victor did. A chase then ensues when the estate’s housekeeper, Frau Blücher, sets the monster free. Frederick and his two assistants, Igor and Inga, attempt to reel the monster back while Inspector Kemp tries to corner Frederick himself.
Lasley’s show rides on dirty jokes from beginning to end, but doesn’t fall short on choreography or musical talent either. Frederick’s wife, Elizabeth, played by Nathalie Cruz, has a particularly memorable voice to go along with her character’s arrogant and always sassy personality. But it’s not sappy love stuff that she’s singing. Exhibit A: One of her songs is titled, “Please Don’t Touch Me.”
Frau Blücher, played by Vickie Cornelius Phipps, also showcases her stellar vocals in a solo titled, “He Vas My Boyfriend,” performed in a meticulous German accent.
The dance numbers are clever, and clearly well-rehearsed—no flailing around like zombies in this show. Igor leads the pack in many of the dances and has arguably the best facial expressions of the entire cast. Even the monster gets his groove on in a tap routine towards the end of the show.
An audience-participation segment keeps the show’s energy level high during the “Transylvania Heights Show” scene. Frederick shows off his creation to the crowd by commanding him to do things as if he were a trained animal.
By the end, Frederick accepts his last name the way everyone else wants to pronounce it, and seems proud of his family heritage.
Frankenstein declares that “we must accept our successes and our failures” as a final theme of the play. Luckily for the cast and the audience, there weren’t many failures to accept.
If you’re looking for a few laughs and a whole lot of de-stressing before the busy holiday season arrives, this is a perfect opportunity. So bring your dirty minds—but maybe not your really young kids.
And if this show is any indication of what the rest of the season holds under Lasley’s direction, you might consider getting a season pass this season.
Young Frankenstein runs through November 5. Get tickets here.