A monstrous good time
If you are a Mel Brooks fan, then Randall Theatre’s production of “Young Frankenstein” is a must-see.
Randall’s exuberant, enthusiastic staging of the bawdy Broadway hit musical is an entertaining tribute to Brooks’ comic genius. Hilarity abounds as the troupe sings and dances its way around Transylvania Heights in this parody of horror films and romantic musicals of the 1930s.
“Young Frankenstein” is Randall’s second musical staged in the company’s Jacksonville venue at Calvary Church, 520 N. Fifth St. Like the monster, the production, which opened July 28, is "alive” and a roaring good time.
The show runs through Sunday, Aug. 20. Curtain is at 7 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. Reserved seating is $20. Tickets and information are available at randalltheatre.com or by calling 541-632-3258. Pay-what-you-want tickets are available 30 minutes before shows, subject to availability.
An enormous cast inhabits every nook and cranny of the transformed sanctuary. In the intimate house, you have a front-row seat to all the wicked double entendres and naughty shenanigans. It’s impossible to resist the temptation to sing along with the vampish female leads on “Roll in the Hay,” “He Vas My Boyfriend” and “Deep Love.” And it's even harder not to be infected with “Transylvania Mania,” when you might feel like slipping on dancin’ shoes and join the cast in a rowdy rendition of “Puttin’ on the Ritz.”
The musical is Brooks’ adaptation of his 1974 Oscar-nominated non-musical film of the same name. Brooks and Thomas Meehan, both three-time Tony Award winners, wrote the book. Brooks also wrote the music and lyrics for the show.
The play is the saga of Frederick Frankenstein, (pronounced Fronk-en-steen, don’t you know), an esteemed New York brain surgeon and professor at the Johns, Miriam and Anthony Hopkins School of Medicine. When he inherits the Transylvania estate of his grandfather, the deranged genius Victor Von Frankenstein, he faces a dilemma. Repulsed, he attempts to rebuke his family name, but he is caught in a vortex. His grandfather’s spirit haunts him one dark and stormy night, but it is the spell of sexy lab assistant Inga, the zany coaxing of sidekick Igor and the hex of Frau Blucher that spurs him to fulfill his destiny as a Frankenstein.
Madcap mayhem ensues at the creepy Frankenstein castle when he joins the sinister family business, aka demented experiments reanimating the dead. He vows to “make a monster and make the world very afraid.”
The production stars Nathan Monk in the dual role of Dr. Frederick Fronkensteen and Victor Von Frankenstein. Monk, who has performed lead roles in multiple productions at the Camelot Theater, makes his debut with the Randall company. In this production — the perfect piece to spotlight both his comedic chops and vocal gifts — he takes command of nearly every scene.
Mia Gaskin (the vamp Elizabeth) starred in Randall’s “Little Shop of Horrors” and “Once Upon a Mattress.” A life-long devotee of Brooks, she would make him proud with her take on “Please Don’t Touch Me” and “Deep Love.”
Meagan Kirby, a seven-year Randall Theater veteran, is sexy, sweet, sensuous and endearing as Frederick’s lab assistant and paramour Inga. And, my, oh my, can the girl sing! She has fun yodeling her way through “Roll in the Hay” and is very tender in “Listen to Your Heart.”
Rhyon Ingalls, a frequent Randall cast member the last two seasons, is hilarious as Frederick’s hunchback sidekick Igor (make that “Eye-Gore”). He steals every scene in which he appears, starting with “Together Again,” a rollicking duet with Monk. Ingalls’ side-splitting explanation of how he dropped the brain of a genius and replaced it with the brain of "Abby Normal,” along with a number of unforgettable one-liners, is worth the price of admission.
C.J. Reid plays the mysterious Frau Blucher, whose spoken name spooks horses. Reid may be a bit more subdued than Cloris Leachman, who made the role famous, but nonetheless she aptly delivers her lines with a wink and a nod to Brooks’ double entendres.
John Wing’s “Monster” is amusing as his freak-of-nature character undergoes a metamorphosis and becomes a “man about town.”
The rest of the cast under the direction of Kathy Wing is a joy to watch. The chorus romping in the musical sequences choreographed by Deborah Downward is especially entertaining, and the voices display perfect pitch with Brooks’ musical score.
The set by Nico Hewitt, lighting by Kelly Wright Latham, and sound and special effects by John Wing all pay homage to the atmosphere of Brooks’ original film, complete with black-and-white sequences and 1930s-style opening credits via a screen high above the stage.