I had the great pleasure of seeing Alexander Showcase Theatre’s highly entertaining production of Mel Brooks’ and Thomas Meehan’s Young Frankenstein – The Musical, playing now at the Al Green Theatre (Jewish Community Centre at Bloor/Spadina, Toronto) last night. The Alexander Showcase production was helmed by director Vincenzo Sestito and musical director/producer Gwyneth Sestito, with choreography by Jaime Robertson. Original direction and choreography was by Susan Stroman.
The stand-out cast did a splendid job with this zany horror story set to music. If you’re familiar with the movie, all your favourite characters and moments are there – this time, with music and song. And, yes, the Irving Berlin “Puttin’ on the Ritz” number is there, in all its song and dance glory, as is Elizabeth’s ecstatic “Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life” moment. And, boy, does this cast bring it with the song. Patrick Brown – mostly known for his handsome leading man roles – is outstanding as the nerdy and passionate scientist Frederick Frankenstein (that’s “Fronkensteen”), transitioning from a man intent on renouncing his family history to embracing his grandfather’s scientific legacy. Erin Hyde is hilariously flakey and glamourous as his self-involved fiancée Elizabeth Benning (and a great set of pipes too, especially on “Deep Love”), while Christine Lindo does a lovely turn as his smart girl meets blonde bombshell lab assistant Inga. Matthew McGrath is hysterically charming as the simple-minded but sweet Igor (that’s “Eye-gor”), and Andrea Brown gives a stand-out performance as the creepy and imperious Frau Blucher, who – in her sexy and sad tale “He Vas My Boyfriend” – we learn is full of longing and desire under that tough cookie exterior. And David McEachern gives us a fabulous monster – misunderstood, afraid and fumbling around the world he’s found himself in – like Blucher, a soft caramel centre under that hard shell. Other stand-outs include Seth Mukamal as the revenge-driven but somewhat inept Inspector Kemp, Bob Deutsch as the blind hermit, Ted Powers as Frankenstein’s (deceased) grandfather Dr. Victor von Frankenstein, and Steve Kyriacopoulos (doing double duty as publicity guy) as Frankenstein’s neurology lab subject Mr. Hilltop. Nice work from the entire ensemble!
Set designer Peter Thorman did a terrific job, with moveable set modules shifting with the scenes – from the Transylvania town square, to a New York City college classroom to castle Frankenstein – with projection design by Dan Surman and lighting effects by Chris Humphrey adding to both the set and atmosphere. The most impressive set had to be the laboratory – with its giant electric switches, multi-coloured diodes, control wheels and wires, stone arch window projections on either side and flashes of lightning up centre. It was just as you’d pictured Frankenstein’s lab would be. Shouts to sound designer Angus Barlow; it was all I could do to not whinny along with the horses every time someone said “Frau Blucher”! Kudos to make-up/hair artist Rosalind McArthur, who did an amazing job with the look of the characters – especially Frankenstein’s Edward Scissorhands hair, and the make-up for the monster and Blucher.
Young Frankenstein – The Musical is most definitely some very big fun times. You still have a few more chances to catch it before the show closes on Sunday; please note the 7:30 p.m. curtain time for evening performances. Look out for Alexander Showcase Theatre’s next production this fall – Arthur Miller’s The Crucible – on the Alumnae Theatre main stage November 14-17 and 21-24.
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