Sunday, June 1, 2014

theatre review YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, Arizona Broadway Theatre, May 23

Click here to read my complete review at Talkin' Broadway (highlights below) of Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein.

Becca Gottlieb, Adam Vargas, Kurtis W. Overby, Kathi Osborne and Brad York
Mel Brooks' 1974 film Young Frankenstein is a comedy cinema gem. A huge hit at the box office, it was a loving homage to the monster movies of the 1930s and '40s, centered specifically on the Universal series of Frankensteinfilms. After Brooks' huge stage success in 2001 with the adaptation of his film The Producers, it was only natural that he would tap into his film library for a follow up. But with Young Frankenstein's hit film history and memorable characters to live up to, and saddled with an inferior score, the screen to stage transfer forYoung Frankenstein didn't fare as well as The Producers, running just over a year on Broadway. It's a shame it didn't have a longer run, as the musical features almost all of the famous comic lines and humorous bits from the film and the end result is a fun, frenzied and familiar romp. The Arizona Broadway Theatre is presenting the Arizona premiere of the show in a bang up production with impressive creative elements, solid direction and an impeccable cast that wrings every vaudeville-style comic moment and bawdy nuance from the script.

The plot follows Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (Kurtis W. Overby), the grandson of a mad scientist who created a monster out of various body parts that went on to terrorize the countryside. Frederick wants nothing to do with his ancestors but agrees to go to Transylvania to inspect the property he learns he has inherited. There he meets a hunchback servant named Igor (Brad York), the frightening housekeeper Frau Blucher (Kathi Osborne), and Inga (Becca Gottlieb), a beautiful young woman with a local community college degree in Laboratory Science. After reading his grandfather's journals, Frederick becomes intrigued and before you know it, this odd quartet of characters is in action reanimating the dead, with hysterical circumstances. With a never ending stream of jokes, already familiar dialogue directly from the film that has already entered our vernacular, and numerous song and dance numbers thrown in along the way, Young Frankenstein is ultimately a fun-filled laugh riot that overcomes the few sub-par songs in Brooks' score.

Kurtis W. Overby easily gets across the eccentric, brilliant and excited parts of the intelligent yet socially inept Frederick. While Frederick is relegated to being the "straight man" for most of Brooks' and book co-writer Thomas Meehan's jokes, Overby's expressive eyes add an element that makes the comic bits soar. He also is a talented dancer and singer and excels during his many song and dance numbers. Brad York's Igor is simply a comic delight. York has perfect comic timing and a rich voice and gets laughs by just the way he slinks across the stage. Overby and York's duet of "Together Again for the First Time" is a borsht belt gem. Cassandra Norville Klaphake makes Elizabeth, Frederick's over-sexed fiancée, truly original, bringing a more sophisticated air to the part then Madeline Kahn did in the film, which works, especially with the affected "Continental" accent she uses. While Elizabeth isn't in as much of the show as some of the other characters, Klaphake milks the humor and nails her two somewhat naughty songs with seductive glee and one of the biggest and clearest voices in the Phoenix area. Overby, York and Klaphake have all worked together for several years now as part of the ABT creative and business team, and their friendship and ease in working closely with each other in their "day jobs" comes across on stage.

Once again, Arizona Broadway Theatre delivers top notch design elements. Jack Magaw's scenic design delivers a neverending parade of set pieces, including a lovely silhouette of the Frankenstein castle on a hill at the top of the show. There are a lot of sets in the show, and many scene changes, so Magaw has chosen wisely to not over-do most of the design, which speeds up the set changes. However, his elaborate design for the laboratory set is quite effective. Sublime lighting by Tim Monson uses lush purples and blues to portray the many night-time settings and Jason Lynn's sound design has some great sound effects that have hilarious results. Morgan Andersen's costumes are on par with the rest of the creative elements, with lush outfits that fit perfectly in the 1930s time frame of the story. Together the elements all add up to a slick, but not overly cluttered design.

While it may not have been a hit on Broadway, ABT's production of Young Frankenstein is hysterical, escapist entertainment with a perfect cast that turns the whole affair into an affectionate crowd-pleaser.

Young Frankenstein runs through June 22nd, 2014, at the Arizona Broadway Theatre, 7701 West Paradise Lane, Peoria. Tickets can be purchased at or by calling (623) 776 – 8400.

Photo: Mike Benedetto / Arizona Broadway Theatre

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