By Nancy R. Elliott
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. — The scene is the dark and eerie world of a Transylvanian castle with a horrible secret. Don’t be deceived – it’s anything but. It’s merely the set for the hilarious, madcap musical that Anderson’s Mainstage Theatre soundly delivers beginning tonight. “Young Frankenstein” opens this evening, another comedic coup for our community theater.
Tommy Thomas directs this truly fun Mainstage production. The play is based on the 1974 film written by Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder, which turned Mary Shelley’s classic on its head and then some. The classic was transformed into a musical by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan and first appeared on Broadway in 2007.
“Young Frankenstein” tells the story of Frederick Frankenstein’s return to the ancestral Transylvanian home of Dr. Victor Frankenstein, which he has inherited. Despite his initial rejection of the notion, he is drawn into recreating his grandfather’s experiment in “reanimation.”
Prepare to laugh. The Mainstage production of “Young Frankenstein” is filled with all sorts of comedic elements delivered wonderfully by a devoted cast. It is a production to be savored by an adult audience, with plenty of loaded innuendo and the occasional use of coarse language. It all serves to make everyone laugh, and laugh well.
Gabe Porch as Dr. Frederick Frankenstein seizes the stage when he first turns to face the audience, announcing his absurdly pronounced name and singing “The Brain” with command. He keeps a firm hold on it all the way to the end of the play, along with several other very strong characters.
Bill Malone apparently couldn’t help but fully embrace the character of Igor. Clad in his black hooded garb with the roving humpback, Igor prances with splayed jazz hands, plays the French horn upside down between his legs, and makes a startling snatch with his teeth in just a sampling of his zany moments.
Alaina Coplin makes the perfect Inga. She’s the seductive assistant, replete with Transylvanian accent. From the moment the two horses turn their heads in the run up to “Roll in the Hay,” it’s impossible not to laugh. Inga and Dr. Frankenstein, riding in the hay-filled cart pulled by the horses, are hilarious as they bounce and jiggle their way through the song, culminating with Coplin’s crescendo of impressive yodeling.
Frankenstein’s girlfriend Elizabeth, played by Gretchen Baldwin, simpers through the play as the spoiled, perfectly coiffed princess for whom it’s all about “Me.” When she later emerges on stage with a hairdo that speaks volumes, and a song that almost makes one blush, she has nailed this role for all of its comedic worth.
Other characters absolutely make their mark as well. Sporting braids atop her head, and straddling a chair, Jane Cornelious totally owned her character, Frau Bleucher, singing “He was my boyfriend.”
Martin Stapleton as The Monster may not have a whole lot of lines, but he rocked this character. “Putting on the Ritz” with Dr. Frankenstein is, of course, simply crazy fun.
The impassioned cry of Ralph Sipes as the blind Hermit, thoroughly beseeching the powers that be for “Someone,” cannot fail to provoke laughter.
Look for the duo of Mike Harp and Craig Patty, singing a cappella, to steal a scene as well. And Inspector Hans Kemp (Aaron Jones) with his gloved hand and red be-medalled sash makes the classic village leader.
The musical is delightfully supported by a six-member backstage orchestra, which includes piano, two trumpets, trombone, French horn and drums under the direction of conductor Penny Dyer. During the review performance, there were times when the music began to overtake the chorus voices on stage, but no doubt those voices will pick up in volume as they go along.
The play is a lengthy one. The intermission arrives one hour and 15 minutes into the play, and though the audience will remain engaged, it will be ready for the break. The play starts at 7:30 and wraps at 10 p.m.
In preview performance, there were a few glitches which the cast managed wonderfully and with good humor, eliciting yet more laughter. With the numerous scenes, songs, choreography, sheer volume of lines that demand good timing, and all the laughter, a few glitches can only inspire forgiveness.
Don’t be surprised if you burst out laughing once again on the way home as you recall memorable scenes from this production.