by Terrance Mc Arthur
In 2001, Mel Brooks turned his 1968 movie The Producers into a Broadway musical. It was a smash hit. In 2007, Brooks worked the same magic on 1974’s Young Frankenstein with the same writing partner, Thomas Meehan, and it ran on Broadway for two years. And now…..the River City Theatre Company brings Young Frankenstein to life on the Reedley Opera House stage through July 30.
The good stuff is in there: “Frederick Fronk-en-steen,” the blind hermit, Igor/Eye-gor, “roll in the hay,” Frau Blucher (horse whinnies), “Ah Sweet Mystery of Life,” “Walk this way,” the moving hump, “Put the candle back,” and “He vass my boyfriend.” On top of that, there are songs like “Together Again (For the First Time)”—a celebration of Igor working with his grandfather’s master’s grandson, “Join the Family Business”—a lively suggestion that building monsters is adding branches to the family tree, “Please Don’t Touch Me”—a reassurance that their extreme chastity is the way to go since the woman knows that she is so unbelievably worth it (especially her artfully-euphemized unmentionable parts), and “Transylvania Mania”—a delaying tactic to cover the sounds made by a just-revived Creature. Of course, you can’t forget Irving Berlin’s “Puttin’ on the Ritz”—and after this, you never will.
Eric Bailey is Frederick Frankenstein, the reluctant monster maker. Mustached and swoop-haired, he metamorphoses from a stuffy, repressed medical professor into a can-do character willing to try the impossible, who finds carnal fulfillment he didn’t imagine.
As Igor, Joseph Ham is joyous and manic, the arms and legs of a spider grafted onto the spring-loaded body of Winnie-the-Pooh’s friend Tigger. He sings, he dances, he bounds across the stage, and produces enough energy to light up half of the Las Vegas Strip.
Tan Clark was a one-man entertainment agency, playing the wooden-armed Inspector Kemp, the spirit of Victor Frankenstein, and the blind Hermit, bouncing between costumes at pogo-stick speed. He’s relentless as Kemp, filled with the zeal of insanity as Victor, and forlorn as the lonely holy man, a pleasure to watch as he dumps boiling-hot soup into the lap of the Creature. On top of everything else, Clark was in charge of the scenic art, making a drafty castle seem like a…castle.
In the high-soled footsteps of Boris Karloff and Peter Boyle, Theo Hill stomps his way into the audience’s hearts as the Creature. He’s big, he’s hairy, he’s scary, and he’s charming…and he costumed the show.
Inga, Frederick’s laboratory assistant, bubbles over in Makayla Cowin’s portrayal. She’s poured into costumes that display her mightily. As she jounces through “Roll in the Hay,” she yodels, jiggles and wriggles with jolly glee to the climax of the song.
Rachel Ensley doesn’t try to be Madeline Kahn, Elsa Lanchester, or Megan Mullally when she plays Elizabeth, Frederick’s socialite fiancée. Her style is closer to the madcap Katherine Hepburn in Bringing Up Baby. She smoothly tramples all obstacles because she’s better than everybody else because she’s rich…..and then she meets the Creature.
Stephanie Barnett was cuddly and matronly in RCTC’s Over the River and Through the Woods. As Frau Blucher, she becomes an amalgam of Lotte Lenya, Magenta from Rocky Horror Picture Show, and Marlene Deitrich.
Steve Jones and Tidy Gill directed the microscopic cast of 12 so that it fills the Opera House stage. Gill also handled vocal direction, and Jones designed the settings, using the basic castle wall as a general backdrop. Alexis Macedo provided energetic choreography.
It’s crude, rude fun, and trades on our fond memories of the movie, but that’s what we need from the show, and RCTC has given it to us.
The historic 1903 building is at 1720 10th Street in Reedley. For information and to purchase tickets go to www.reedleyrivercitytheatre.org or call 559-638-6500.
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