While Mel Brooks fans will be especially giddy with anticipation for the Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre’s season opener, Young Frankenstein, (if they haven’t seen it already during opening weekend), anyone who savors an across-the-board top-notch musical comedy will be deliriously dazzled by the sheer quality of this staging. Having seen a professional touring production of the show several years ago, I can confidently state that Civic’s group of thespians outdid their travelling counterparts in talent, enthusiasm, and commitment.
The show’s transfer from film to stage kept intact the lowbrow comedy that make Brooks’ parodies so hilarious and inspired a dedicated following: ridiculous slapstick, bizarre situations, sexual innuendo, and outright dick jokes presented in unapologetic quantities.
Director Michael Lasley indulges us with shticky pleasures while achieving and maintaining excellence in performance and presentation. Jaw-dropping scenery frames ensemble musical numbers that come at you with the power of a case of 5-hour Energy drinks, choreographed and staged by Anne Nicole Beck with musical direction by Brent Marty and a live orchestra under the baton of Trevor Fanning. The most fantastical number, “Family Business,” contains not only a noteworthy performance by Evan Wallace as Grandpa Frankenstein but also a ginourmous puppet of the monster that is awe inspiring and unnerving.
Steve Kruze embraces the role of Frederick Frankenstein while insinuating his own take on the doctor, but hardcore fans won’t be turned off by his interpretation of the iconic character. He asserts his dominance of the stage from his first scene, “The Brain,” and never lets go. Nathalie Cruz also puts her own coquettish mark on Elizabeth, Frederick’s fiancée. Roles that more closely reflect their film versions are Igor by Damon Clevenger, Inga by Devan Mathias, Frau Blücher (“neigh!”) by Vickie Cornelius Phipps, and the Monster by B. J. Bovin. This in no way means that they aren’t exceptional—they own their caricatures 100 percent and revel in their insensible, bawdy humor. All of the main characters deliver knock-out renditions of songs, such as “He Vas My Boyfriend,” “Deep Love,” and “Puttin’ on the Ritz.”
So why take off half a star? Opening night, there were some pretty grating sound and mike issues. For a show of this caliber, it was a shame that occasionally we couldn’t hear the actors.