Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Stage

Review: Excellent cast delivers entertaining production of ‘Young Frankenstein’ at Stage West

I went to see the musical comedy Young Frankenstein at Stage West Community Playhouse in Spring Hill with some trepidation. I had seen a very good production of the show at another theater a couple of years ago, and I was concerned that I would subconsciously compare the two to the detriment of one or the other.

No need to worry. Both productions were splendid, each can stand on its own merits, and the Stage West version is well worth seeing, whether you’ve ever seen a production of the show before or not.

Director Dalton Benson’s well-chosen, 27-member cast, led by seven of the region’s best performers, makes this Young Frankenstein a pleasure from start to finish, despite some unfortunate lighting (or, more accurately, un-lighting) problems that obscure many of the show’s best moments, including a daring human pyramid that got completely lost in the dark on opening night.

Young Frankenstein is Mel Brooks’s spoof of the famed 1931 Boris Karloff horror flick Frankenstein, where a mad scientist assembles parts of dead bodies to create an oversized, crazed, murdering monster that rampages through a small European village.

In Brooks’s zany musical version, based on Brooks’s zany movie of the same name, the scientist’s grandson has become a respected New York college professor who has disavowed his infamous grandfather, going so far as to insist his name be pronounced "Fronkensteen." When he learns his grandfather is dead, he leaves his frivolous fiancee, Elizabeth, and goes to his late grandfather’s village, where he meets the humpbacked Igor; the buxom, bubbly lab assistant Inga, and the sinister Frau Blucher.

If this sounds like something serious, be assured it isn’t. It’s broad comedy, with sight and sound gags (neighing horses at the mention of Frau Blucher’s name), lusty double entendres, bawdy songs (Deep Love), nonsense lyrics (Together Again for the First Time), hilarious asides and unforgettable characters.

Rich Krasowski Jr. is marvelous in the title role, not only as a comic actor with perfect timing, but also as a superb singer. Kudos to sounder operator Trina Brown, who places the body mics to pick up every utterance at just the right level for each actor.

Jennifer Garcia, who was magnificent as last season’s tragic Evita, shows her comedy chops in this one, but also gets to show her equally impressive voice in Please Don’t Touch Me, Surprise and the raunchy Deep Love.

But almost stealing the show are Keith Surplus as Igor and Lynda Dilts-Benson as Frau Blucher. Both maintain difficult accents throughout the show, no small feat. Surplus’s physical comedy and facial expressions are wonderful, creating an ingratiating, but conniving Igor (that’s "Eye-gor", Fronkensteen’s assistant). Surplus takes this iconic role and makes it his own, the mark of a true talent.

Dilts-Benson is absolutely stellar as Frau Blucher, her pauses perfect, her arched eyebrows and haughty demeanor radiating to the back rows. Her rendition of He Vas My Boyfriend is a near show-stopper, earning well-deserved, prolonged applause from the audience. Plaudits to costume creators Kathleen Morgan and Barbara Calaya for the good job they did for Frau Blucher and the rest of the players.

Brady Lay is pure delight as The Monster, his Puttin’ on the Ritz song and dance a highlight of the show, and his, um, interaction with Elizabeth a laugh riot.

Star Verosic is a darling Inga, as innocently sexy as she is beautiful; Jay Garcia is uproarious as the once-mutilated, now stern Inspector Hans Kemp. David Stenger does a good job as the blind Hermit, and Stan Kane makes a fine ghost of Grandfather Frankenstein, who convinces his grandson to Join the Family Business of creating monsters.

Choreographer Sidney Campo creates production numbers appropriate for the large ensemble and adding some glitz. Music director Carol Ballard’s seven-piece combo got off to a shaky start, but soon picked up the pace to keep the show moving along. Listen especially for Andrew Sterlacci’s mellow violin.

Although the clock indicates the show is a tad long, coming in at 2 hours, 45 minutes, including curtain speech and intermission, it is so entertaining and so much fun that the time just flies by, making it seem a lot shorter.

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