A MONSTER HIT

Everything old stays new again

Mel Brooks creates wonderfully funny stuff. So, when he decided to make a transplant of his 1974 movie Young Frankenstein into a monster of a musical in 2007, who was going to stand in his way? After all, his transformation of 1968’s The Producers into 2001’s roaring, song-filled Broadway smash sent chills and thrills up the spines of backers, garnering 12 Tonys and staying alive and kicking there for seven lucky years.

The newer creation breaks no new ground, staying very close to the dialogue, bits and business of Gene Wilder and Brooks’ original screenplay, but justice is done in the vitality, vim, vigor and vonderful hilarity of the current, sizzling production at Omaha Community Playhouse. Credit director Carl Beck and his great cast for dancing, singing, walking and talking in all the right places and all the right ways. They make sure that the 40-year old gags stay new again and zap your funny bone.  

As you may know, since movie versions of Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel grabbed the public’s fascination and wouldn’t let go, Wilder and Brooks had a ball assembling and sewing together parts of various versions, sending all that up.

Brooks wrote 18 songs for this thing. His lyrics zing and zip. The music stays catchy, most often doing a generically agreeable job, just like the score for The Producers. But who cares if it’s not Sigmund Romberg, right? Of course, Irving Berlin’s “Puttin’ On the Ritz,” that anomalous inserted salute to dancing elegance, stands out front and center as a great number. Choreographer Melanie Walters gets phenomenal results from her dancing ensemble in this and every production number, made all the more remarkable given that these are not professional performers.

You don’t need a synopsis. You’ll get the drift right off the bat. But, if you aren’t that familiar with Brooks’ characteristic comedy, you need to be cautioned that the double and triple entendres aren’t for tykes nor for other people who could likewise squirm in the seats due to pointed references to sexual activity.     

Taking center stage and making every eyebrow, leap and gesture worth attention, visiting artist Spencer Williams becomes a non-stop delight as Igor. His amazing dance steps trip the light fantastic, even when bent as if under crooked bones. Judy Radcliff’s Frau Blucher wonderfully digs into every grave and somber inflection. Her superb timing stops perfectly in the tracks of the frantic activity pulsing around her. The Monster is played by Ryan Pivonka and he gives it a charming boyish innocence, certainly a valid way to go. Especially catch his scat-singing in the finale. Note as well Kirstin Kluver’s impressive yodeling as the mountain maiden Inga. And don’t miss Jim Othuse’s scenic imagination, especially delightful during a horse-drawn hayride.  

A laugh riot awaits you in the sparkling shadows. Try to contain yourself.

Young Frankenstein,The Musical keeps on going through June 29 at Howard and Rhonda Hawks Mainstage Theatre, Omaha Community Playhouse, 6915 Cass St.  Wednesdays–Saturdays, 7:30 p.m. Sundays: 2 p.m. Tickets: $24-$40. Info: http://www.OmahaPlayhouse.org

posted at 08:38 pm
on Thursday, June 05th, 2014

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