Okay, so maybe Young Frankenstein isn’t a show for the kiddies. It’s awfully funny – and this from someone who hasn’t been wild about Mel Brooks movies – but it does rather merrily move into the bawdy whenever there’s an opportunity.
There’s nothing subtle about this show. It’s Brooks. Of course there’s not. It’s broad, it’s full of funny lines, and, yes, there are stereotypes, like the happy villagers and a plethora of Eastern European jokes. Brooks revels in tickling sensitive souls until they’re forced to laugh, although this doesn’t go as far as The Producers with its musical production of “Springtime for Hitler”.
No, here we merely have a professor at the Johns, Miriam and Anthony Hopkins University School of Medicine who inherits his grandfather’s estate. But this is the Frankenstein family, and sure enough, there he is arriving at the Transylvania Station. From there, it gets considerably wilder.
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (which he pronounces FRONK-en-shteen) is Robert Petkoff (with a wonderful Gene Wilder-esque wig), reveling in the silliness of it all with a wonderfully straight face and fine musical finesse, both from his mouth and his feet. The sidekick Igor (he’s gone for EYE-gor), the doctor’s dogsbody and eventual burker, complete with a traveling hump, comes to us via Steve Rosen. He deserves all the laughs he gets, even though covering a stage as big as the Muny’s with Igor’s off-kilter gait, is above and beyond the call of duty.
The tradition in Brooks shows is to have a character who’s a statuesque blonde. Here’s it’s Stephanie Gibson, who’s brought onto the team as their laboratory assistant. She holds her lust in comparatively good control as Inge, and is a fine hoofer. The doctor’s New York fiancee, the petite and situationally untouchable Elizabeth, Jennifer Cody, is a stitch, going from “Please Don’t Touch Me” to “Deep Love” in the course of the evening’s events. Kudos, too, to Timothy Hughes playing the Monster, another physically demanding role; Hughes has a great voice when he can finally do more than moan or croak.
It’s another Muny show with a huge dance number, this time to Irving Berlin’s “Puttin’ on the Ritz”, utilizing, as so much of the show does, the turntable. And again, they’re using the Muny Kids in this number. Putting aside the Awwww Factor, their appearance does enhance the visuals of a number like this, and artistically it’s more than valid.
The, you should pardon the phrase, monster set is by Paul Tate dePoo III. There’s a lot of changes of big pieces of stage, and while the turntable helps a lot with that, it’s still serious pushing when things have to be changed out. It works very well indeed. And in a show like this, where the humor is as much verbal as it is visual, much credit to sound designers John Shivers and David Patridge. Now if they could just find a way to silence chatterers who think they’re still in their own homes….
Marcia Milgrom Dodge may have had as much fun putting this together as the audience did seeing it. I hope so.
through July 19