Young Frankenstein, officially known by the title ‘The new Mel Brooks musical Young Frankenstein,’ is a musical based on the 1974 film of the same name directed by Brooks and Gene Wilder. It is an affectionate musical parody of the cult horror genre and lends largely from Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein.’
The show follows the plot of the original film; the grandson of the infamous Victor Frankenstein, Frederick Frankenstein has made a name for himself as the Dean of Anatomy at a prestigious university. Upon learning he has inherited his family estate Frederick must travel to Transylvania, leaving his suggestive yet abstaining fiancée Elizabeth Benning behind. Upon arrival, Frederick meets Igor, the arch type laboratory assistant hell bent on convincing Frederick to follow in his grandfathers work, and who has already hired Inga, a beautiful yodeling laboratory assistant and also the mysterious Frau Blucher who tends to the castle. Frederick becomes influenced by the three and quickly finds himself in his grandfather’s shoes creating a monster of his own, much to the disdain of the local townspeople and the towns inspector Hans Kemp.
Right from the beginning audiences are treated to a wonderful homage to cult horror nostalgia. Projections onto a closed curtain accompanied by a solid orchestra, led by Matthew Nutley, immediately set the scene of a chilling classic cult horror movie. It is a shame that this tone did not seem consistent through the course of the show.
Director Matt Bearup has assembled a strong cast and there were standout performances throughout. Adam Jon provided an anchor of a Dr. Frederick Frankenstein providing a subtle yet strong characterisation. He moved well with impressive vocals.
Natalie Carden provided the perfect blend of cold but sassy to Frau Blucher. The strength of Carden’s Blucher was her comedic timing, which saw her drawing laughs consistently.
The monster played by Tim Ryan provided the epitome of the bumbling idiot only to have him completely transform into the intelligent gentleman. The contrast here was very impressive and felt incredibly authentic.
Britni Leslie was in complete control as Elizabeth Benning. She was cheeky and yet grating at the same time as the abstaining fiancée. Her vocals were a clear standout and a real treat. Jenna Featherstone provided a bubbly and bouncy Inga that really shone when she could bounce off Jon’s contrasting Dr Frankenstein.
My biggest praise goes to Nick Rouse as the creepy yet kindhearted henchman Igor. There was no weakness here – Rouse’s comedic timing was spot on and he managed to humanise the ghoulish character into a warm and loveable sidekick incredibly well.
Choreography was simple and at times minimal. This led to the ensemble often times glancing back at each other and seeming lost while having large amounts of time to fill with what seemed like little or no choreography direction during some numbers. However, they brought significant energy. Vocally the ensemble was excellent with clear harmonies. A highlight was certainly “Welcome to Transylvania.” A standout Ensemble member was Jordan Briggs, whose energy never faltered and often times had the most committed and energetic characterisations on stage.
The set was made up of two flats that doubled as a doorway with a second level of flats being moved on to provide a spinning bookcase as an entry to the doctors laboratory. Unfortunately set changes were not smooth and often left cast members starting their scene while crew were still visible on stage. A combination of the poor transitions and use of the same two flats throughout the show meant it became hard to portray distance between scenes as they had a tendency to bleed into each other. Particular highlights include the horse and cart with projections used to create momentum and the waking of the monster, which featured incredible electronic effects and a moving surgery table.
Lighting and effects had moments of magic, particularly the lightning effects projected onto the stage. However the ensemble numbers seemed to simply be a wash of color that pulsated and I felt that there was more room for decisive choices here that could carry more impact. The use of blinders to distract was at times very effective, however they were also used in an ensemble number which distracted from the on stage action.
Costumes were tasteful and effective. Igor with his ever-moving hump, Elizabeth Benning’s gowns and Inspector Kemp’s Military uniform worked well. Particularly impressive was Frau Blucher’s greyscale getup that made her appear as if she had stepped out of a black and white film.
The orchestra was strong from beginning to end and did much to provide the tone the show required. It was clear that musical director Matthew Nutley had a great understanding of the cult horror context and the orchestra truly delivered.
MLOC have managed to take a show with a cult following and deliver. Fans will find the show enjoyable, with a strong cast and exciting special effects Young Frankenstein delivers a dose of comedic cult horror nostalgia.