The 1974 film “Young Frankenstein,” written by Gene Wilder and Mel Brooks, is on many lists of top comedy movies.
Based on Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” novel, as well as film adaptations, the movie contains a monster created by Dr. Frederick Frankenstein, the grandson of the doctor in the original novel, plus a whole cadre of unique and amusing characters.
Lake Country Playhouse’s most recent offering, “Young Frankenstein, the Musical,” has all the elements of the movie by the same name, not to mention a whole laboratory full of fun tunes that only adds to the madcap journey.
Director Ami Majeskie has assembled a cast that really gets comedy. They’ve created memorable characters who are just as much fun to watch as their counterparts in the film, but better because they’re live and in person. Plus, they sing and dance. What’s not to love?
The show opens with “The Happiest Town in Town,” in which the villagers of Transylvania, portrayed by an exceptionally strong group of ensemble players, sing about how wonderful life has been now that Dr. Victor Frankenstein and the monster he created are both dead. His only living relative is a grandson, Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (Adres Garuz), a professor living in New York.
When the village Idiot (Zach Sharrock) asks, “What are the chances of a New York doctor ever coming to Transylvania?” Everyone shouts, “None!”
But Frederick does come to Transylvania to settle his grandfather’s affairs, leaving behind his girlfriend, Elizabeth (Marann Curtis). He meets Igor (Thomas Hess), the hunchback who hopes Frederick will carry on his father’s experiments. Frederick also meets Inga (Allison O’Donnell), a lovely lab assistant, and Frau Blucher (Lauren Heinen), the stern housekeeper of Victor’s castle.
Frederick is convinced to continue his grandfather’s experiments of bringing the dead to life when his ancestors visit him in a dream during the “Join the Family Business” tune.
Frederick’s experiment is successful, but Igor has obtained the wrong brain. So, instead of a man of intelligence, a Monster (Emmitt Morgans) has been created. The Monster gets loose and terrorizes the town, meets a lonely blind hermit (Casey Van Dam) and kidnaps Elizabeth, but everything is sorted out in the end.
Every scene and tune in this show is a hilarious romp, pitch perfect in its comedy, under the direction of Majeskie, who herself has delivered some marvelous comedic performances. You just can’t wait to see how this cast handles the next bit, even when you know what’s coming.
All the funny pieces from the movie are here – the Ovaltine reference, the hump bit, the horses and Frau Blucher. And they’re so much funnier when one is so close to the action.
Garuz heads this strong cast with his wonderful portrayal of Frederick. He easily handles the speedy lyrics and music in “The Brain” with a very pleasing voice, and knows how to turn a line for laughs. After his dream about his ancestors, he engages the audience, saying, “My ancestors were so crazy … but boy, can they dance!”
Heinen, as Frau Blucher, is hilarious. She carries her intimidating character with firm, manly strides, and frequently faces the audience with a glare that could stop a general. Her “He Vas My Boyfriend” is a hoot.
As Inga, O’Donnell, too, has created a memorable character and lends a lovely soprano voice to her tunes, such as the rollicking “Roll In the Hay,” wherein she even gets a chance to yodel. Funny stuff.
Curtis’ Elizabeth has a wonderfully vampish look and demeanor, and her numbers, including “Please Don’t Touch Me,” are done well.
Hess carries around Igor’s moving hump and carries off all the hilarity we remember from Marty Feldman’s in the movie.
Van Dam also does a great job with his two characters. His physicality in handling the inspector’s physical limitations is most appealing, while his blind Hermit sees lots of opportunities for laughs.
But perhaps the funniest scene in the show – even better than in the movie – is “Puttin’ on the Ritz,” with Morgans’ dancing Monster leading the way. Rather than just Frederick and the Monster, the scene in the musical also features the ensemble, which only adds to the enjoyment.
This ensemble added much to every scene its members were in. The barbershop harmony in “Welcome to Transylvania” was nicely done, as were other ensemble tunes, under the musical direction of Jaime Nyland. The ensemble consisted of Mallory Martin, Stacy Kolafa, Lexi Ellis, Jessica Kennedy, Michelle De La Matter, James Sevens, Todd Herdt and Sharrock.
I’m not a big fan of canned music – which was used here – as opposed to a live orchestra, but with such as talented cast, great tunes and a wacky story, it mattered little.
Just a note of caution …the show is for adult audiences. Although many of the references may fly right over young heads.
If you go
Who: Lake Country Playhouse
What: “Young Frankenstein, the Musical”
When: Through Oct. 30
Where: 221 E. Capitol Drive, Hartland