Filmmaker Mel Brooks took Broadway by storm with his musical adaptation of The Producers and hoped lightning would strike twice with the same approach to Young Frankenstein.
It didn’t. Young Frankenstein ran for about 2,000 performances less than its predecessor and while The Producers rang up a total of fifteen Tony nominations (winning a then-record twelve), YF received a scant three nominations and took home none.
Does that mean it’s a bad show? No, in many ways it’s a better show. It adheres closer to its original material and while The Producers is essentially a one-joke concept (albeit a great joke), Young Frankenstein affectionately spoofs an entire genre and Broadway itself.
The despised Victor von Frankenstein (Robert Bauer) has passed and it’s up to his grandson Frederick Frankenstein – pronounced Fronk-en-steen – (Troy Thomas Evans) to return to Transylvania and claim his birthright. How long before Frederick and Igor – pronounced Eye-gore – (Bill Garcia) get back in the family business?
If you like the film, you’ll like the show but you’re going to have to get past some casting issues. Evans is a talented young performer who’s done good work, but he is decades too young for the role of Frederick. Whether his constipated take on the role was his or director Katie Watts’s decision, it didn’t work. Bill Garcia does fine as Igor, but it occurred to me as the show drew to a close that, for a number of reasons, he should have played Frederick and Evans would be better suited for the role of Igor.
The supporting cast is strong, with Tory Rotlisberger stealing scenes as Frau Blücher and Madison Scarbrough a hoot as Frederick’s vainglorious fiancé Elizabeth. Robert Bauer does double duty as Inspector Kemp and Grandpa Frankenstein, and Eric Yanez does well as the monster.
Watts also choreographed the show, and she exhibits a much stronger hand with that task in several well-done production numbers including the classic tap-dancing extravaganza “Puttin’ on the Ritz”.
It’s a Mel Brooks piece, so the humor runs from the clever to the crass. A great deal of laughter comes from familiarity with the material, as evidenced by the audience’s raucous responses to some jokes despite the delivery being somewhat wobbly.
You know what you’re gonna get with a show like Young Frankenstein and while you do get a lot of it, this monster could have been stitched together better.
‘Young Frankenstein’ runs through July 14 at the Raven Performing Arts Theater in Healdsburg. Friday and Saturday evening performances are at 8 pm; the Sunday matinee is at 2 pm. There’s a Thursday, July 11 “value night” performance at 8pm.
For more information, go to raventheater.org.