Supplied by Ally Springett
Most everyone knows the story of Victor Frankenstein, the doctor who first shambled out of Mary Shelley’s imagination in 1818. But do you know the story of his grandson, the successful New York doctor who wanted nothing to do with his family history and even went so far as to change the pronunciation of his name?
“Young Frankenstein” is an adaptation of the Mel Brooks film of the same name, which first aired in 1974. I wasn’t familiar with the story, until I was fortunate enough to sit in on one of the final rehearsals of the play, being performed this month at Richmond Civic Theatre.
The final shows are at 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday (March 15-16) and 2 p.m. Sunday (March 17).
Frederick Frankenstein (pronounced “Fronkensteen,” he will remind you) is a lecturer at a New York medical school.
Upon learning of the passing of his grandfather, he travels to Transylvania to settle his late relative’s affairs. There he meets Igor, a man whose grandfather worked for Victor and who himself wants to work for Frederick, despite the latter’s claims that he has no interest in “the family business.”
Frederick also meets Inga, whom Igor hired to also be Frederick’s assistant, and Frau Blucher, the housekeeper. What was meant to be a simple trip to inspect his grandfather’s estate turns into a wild time as Frederick discovers the secret lab and ultimately decides to continue Victor’s work.
As someone who had limited knowledge of the story prior to rehearsal, I had no idea the scope of what I was about to witness, but had high hopes. Those hopes were not dashed, as the cast and crew delivered a brilliant performance.
Andy Dudas really threw himself into his character; watching Frederick parade around the stage singing about his fascination with brains or joining the family business was a delight. And Elizabeth’s (Hollie Caskey) over-the-top obnoxiousness, especially during the musical number “Don’t Touch Me,” was spot on.
The crowd scenes, such as when the townsfolk learn that another Frankenstein still lives, are well-executed, and the exaggerated gasps are a humorous addition. The actors really brought their characters to life.
The dancing scenes, especially in “Don’t Touch Me” where everyone has a partner but mustn’t touch them, surely required a lot of practice, but it flowed seamlessly. Any dance scene that has limited space and several dancers, but still flows smoothly, is a testament to choreographer Regina Branagin, and the actors’ hard work.
Bobbi Cayard-Roberts’ lighting set the stage in dramatic fashion. Using light to represent grass, for example, was a brilliant choice to make the scene come alive without adding something to the floor of the stage which might become a tripping hazard.
Under Amy Dudas’ direction, the orchestra performed brilliantly. The music, written by Brooks, perfectly suited each scene it accompanied. My only critique is that there were times when the music was louder than the actors, and as such it was hard to hear what was being said.
A few missed words didn’t detract from the overall experience that much, however, and I still heartily enjoyed myself. If you’re a fan of Frankenstein, mad science, and monsters, whether or not you loved Mel Brooks’ movie, I’d suggest going to see “Young Frankenstein.”
Tickets are $18 for adults and $15 for seniors 65-plus and students with ID. They are available at www.gorct.org, by calling (765) 962-1816 or available at the door (downstairs seats are limited).