by Terrance Mc Arthur
“Put the candle back!”
“Putting on the Ritz!”
“Blucher!” (horses neigh)
“Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life! At last I’ve found you…!”
The wonderful memories they bring of Mel Brooks’ great movie, Young Frankenstein. After the success of the Broadway musical version of The Producers, it was almost natural for Brooks to adapt his homage to classic horror movies for the stage. Now, the Raisin’ Cain production of Young Frankenstein is stomping, dancing, and singing around the Selma Arts Center until May 2. (Anybody who hasn’t seen the movie, go stand in the corner until you feel sufficiently ashamed, then come back.)
Remember how Frederick FRONK-en-STEEN inherits from his grandfather, so he goes to Transylvania where he meets a strange hunchback, a naïve-but-curvaceous lab assistant, and a spooky housekeeper? He is a reputable scientist, but once he finds Grandpa’s notes, he’s digging up graveyards to find parts for a new monster. Sound familiar?
Since it’s Mel Brooks, you know it’s going to be ribald, risqué, and raunchy, and you’re going to laugh…a lot…and be embarrassed about what is making you laugh. I mean, there is a woman on top of a rotating, rolling stairway, loudly singing a term I haven’t heard in a Broadway song lyric since “A Chorus Line,” and I laughed…loudly.
Bryan DeBaets is a pleasant-looking Frederick, with a slightly gap-toothed smile and hair that gets wilder and higher as the evening progresses. In his first major stage role, he is engaging and upbeat, comfortable with the singing and the comedy. Igor (Eye-gor), his partner in science, is a frenetic Matthew Hitch, looking like a refugee from Game of Thrones.
Brandon Cleveland is The Monster, made up more like Boris Karloff than Peter Boyle. He is properly tall and menacing on shoes with super-thick soles. His second-act transformation turns him into a well-spoken gentleman, and Cleveland definitely carries it off. The famous “Putting on the Ritz” number is amplified in effect as he lumbers behind, in front of, and around a bevy of enthusiastic dancers from Visalia’s DY.NAM.X troupe.
Following in the high-heeled footsteps of Madeline Kahn and Megan Mullaly, Stacey Hall sweeps across the stage as Elizabeth, Frederick’s fiancée, who avoids physical contact with him, but gets physical with The Monster. Her songs are belted but clear, and she makes good use of her time on stage.
Brittany Roberts is zaftig and limber as Inga, the assistant who does all sorts of things for Frederick, bouncing about the stage from a “Roll in the Hay” to a “Transylvania Mania.” She is the closest to the movie image of the cast, evoking fond memories of Teri Garr. Cathy Stone Hughes has jumped from Bloody Mary in South Pacific into Frau Blucher’s (neigh) Transylvanian dirndl. She is gruff, imposing, and lots of fun to watch. Although mostly in the chorus, Adrian Oceguera gets a moment to shine as the lonely, blind hermit who gets a very large visitor, an who gets a special surprise in the finale. Another enjoyable turn on the stage is provided by Kris Grey as the spectral Dr. Victor Frankenstein, urging Frederick to chuck medicine, take up monster making, and “Join the Family Business.”
Dominick Grijalva has become a one-man cottage industry when it comes to projected scenery in the Valley. His images, some with animation make scene changes easier, and provide niches for statues that come to life and gangways where people can enter the image of a ship. I am amazed.
The show is fun, lively, and unsuitable for small children, unless you plan to do a lot of explaining. The Selma Arts Center is at 1935 High Street in Selma. Tickets can be purchased on their website.
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