“Les Miz” and “Young Frankenstein”: a Tale of Two Shows

            One would think that after directing a show like Les Miserables to begin their final season at The Omaha Playhouse, Young Frankenstein would be comparatively easy. Not the case, according to directors Carl Beck and Susie Baer Collins.

            “When we picked the season we thought it was going to be incredibly ambitious,” Collins said. “Now that we’re in it, it was very true.”

            The directors said that in many ways, Young Frankenstein is actually more of a challenge than Les Miz.

            “For one, there’s time and availability,” said Collins. “We auditioned Les Miz really, really early because there was so much preparation behind it. We knew it was bigger than everybody and, as a result, we benefitted from all that worry.”

Les Miz had a 10 week rehearsal period, 3 weeks only to music because of the nature of the show. We rehearsed on the stage from the beginning of the blocking. It had a lot of privileges that Young Frankenstein doesn’t because it’s at the end of the season. Plus, everybody’s graduating from high school and going to all of these events that coincide with the end of season.”

Beck added, “It’s very tricky. There’s a lot of complexity in terms of the number of production numbers and scenes on top of what is required of the actors. For a piece of musical fluff, it is pretty darn intricate.”

While the two shows couldn’t be more different in terms of subject matter, both directors see plenty of similarities between the two shows.

“Much like Les Miz, the ensemble is a living, breathing, huge aspect of the show,” Collins said. “It’s a huge challenge for them but they are amazing, gifted, and up to the challenge.

Beck talked about choreography saying, “Melanie Walters’ choreography is nothing short of splendid. She realized very early on how strong the dance ensemble was. She’s laying on some very hard work and they are just eating it up.”

The other similarity between the two shows is challenge of performing such iconic work.

“You want to give actors freedom,” Beck said. “You want to give them a sense of finding their own timing and playing with the material. Yet, you are dealing with something as huge as the film Young Frankenstein with so many line that everyone can quote. You have an obligation to deliver what they see in the film. It’s a balance about giving them the freedom and yet fulfilling expectations.”

Cold Cream looks at theater in the metro area. Email information to coldcream@thereader.com

posted at 02:03 pm
on Monday, May 19th, 2014

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