Young Frankenstein takes the stage at the Schuster Center
By Brian P. Sharp
Previewing the works of Mel Brooks during the Victoria Theatre film series this summer was the perfect introduction to the new Mel Brooks musical Young Frankenstein officially known as The New Mel Brooks Musical Young Frankenstein. The musical comedy from the creative team of the 12-time Tony Award-winning smash The Producers is on its way to the Dayton stage, running October 4 through 9.
After the success of The Producers in the early 2000s, it seemed like Young Frankenstein was a shoo-in as Brooks’ next big moneymaker, but he saw it another way.
“I wanted to go to Young Frankenstein first, but it didn’t have enough songs in it,” Brooks explained in an interview with the Palm Beach Post at the beginning of the touring season. “With The Producers, I already had two great tunes. I had ‘Prisoners of Love’ and I had ‘Springtime for Hitler,’ which was such a big part of the evening. It just was a natural.”
Young Frankenstein is by three-time Tony Award winner Brooks and three-time Tony Award winner Thomas Meehan, with music and lyrics by Brooks. Young Frankenstein was named Best Broadway Musical 2008 by the Outer Critics Circle Award and it won five Broadway.com Audience Awards, including Favorite New Broadway Musical.
Based on the Oscar-nominated hit 1974 film, Young Frankenstein is the wickedly inspired reimagining of the classic from comic genius Mel Brooks. Brooks, born Melvin Kaminsky grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y. during the Great Depression. According to the same article in the Palm Beach Post, Brooks has always had a petrified fascination for horror films, especially Frankenstein.
“Oh, yeah. I loved them and hated them, because they scared the stuffing out of me,” he said. “I used to tell my mother, at night in the summer, ‘Close the bedroom window.’ There was a fire escape there and I knew that Frankenstein – I meant the monster, but I called him Frankenstein – would walk up the fire escape and come in and eat me.”
The premise of the production follows the film very closely. When Frederick Frankenstein, an esteemed New York brain surgeon and professor, inherits a castle and laboratory in Transylvania from his grandfather, deranged genius Victor Von Frankenstein, he faces a dilemma. Does he continue to run from his family’s tortured past or does he stay in Transylvania to carry on his grandfather’s mad experiments reanimating the dead and, in the process, fall in love with his sexy lab assistant Inga?
The show opens with the funeral of famed scientist Victor Von Frankenstein. While in New York, professor Frederick Frankenstein learns of the demise of his grandfather and his inheriting of the castle and must do something about it.
Frederick arrives in Transylvania and soon meets the hunchback Igor, who insists he continues his grandfather’s work. Igor has already enlisted the help of the yodeling assistant Inga, who quickly becomes a love interest. They travel to the castle and Frederick meets the mysterious Frau Blucher. Frau Blucher was more than just a housekeeper to Frederick’s grandfather.
Frederick decides to carry on the experiments of his late grandfather, and with the help of Igor and Inga, the craziness ensues. A brain is needed, but after Igor has an accident with the brain he replaces it with one from “Abby Normal.” The results are not as expected and the monster soon escapes.
After finding the monster and working to replace the brain, we get to see the monster dance, yet more drama takes off as we find the monster frightened by stage lights. What happens next can convince you that love conquers all and the laughs just keep coming.
Unfolding in the forbidding Castle Frankenstein and the foggy moors of Transylvania Heights, the show’s score includes “The Transylvania Mania,” “He Vas My Boyfriend” and the unforgettable treatment of Irving Berlin’s “Puttin’ On the Ritz.”
Released in 1974 to unanimous critical acclaim, the film received two Academy Award nominations, including one for Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder’s script, and was also nominated for a Writer’s Guild of America Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. Young Frankenstein was also the recipient of the two highest honors accorded films of science fiction, winning the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation and the Nebula Award, given by the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America for Best Dramatic Writing.
The production team includes three Tony Award-winning designers of The Producers; three-time Tony Award-winning set designer Robin Wagner, five-time Tony Award-winning costume designer William Ivey Long and Tony Award-winning lighting designer Peter Kaczorowski. Jonathan Deans is the sound designer. Tony Award-winning orchestrator Doug Besterman and musical director Patrick Brady, two other Producers alumni, complete the music department.
Seeing Young Frankenstein is a great way to spend an evening during the Halloween season. Kick off the fall season with great musical. You don’t want to miss this show. Even Mel Brooks thinks so: “If there’s a little old lady in front of you at the box office and they’re running out of tickets, push her aside,” Brooks said. “I say something really good doesn’t come along very often and you’ve got to take measures to get yourself those tickets.”
Young Frankenstein is part of the 2011-2012 Broadway Series at the Victoria Theatre and runs October 4–9. For more information on the 2011-2012 Miami Valley and Good Samaritan Hospitals Broadway Series and the rest of the Victoria Theatre Association’s season, visit www.victoriatheatre.com. Tickets can be purchased online at www.ticketcenterstage.com or by calling (937) 228-3630.
Reach DCP theatre critic Brian P. Sharp at Theatre@DaytonCityPaper.com.