Mel Brooks said that “Young Frankenstein” the musical, a knock-out, kind of hopped-up stage version of his 1974 film “Young Frankenstein,” is really his favorite of all of his work.
I saw the production on Broadway in 2008 and have enjoyed it several times in a series of exceptional iterations — and I have to say I totally agree.
I bring this up to let you know that Brooks’ “Young Frankenstein” actually opened July 28 on stage at our Seahawk Cultural Center on the campus at Hilton Head High School, and it is the wrap-up musical of the 10th season of the Southeastern Summer Theatre Institute on Hilton Head.
The good news is that it is top-notch, top-drawer, even over the top! But I must point out that there are just three more performances remaining, Aug. 4-6. You must book your tickets quickly.
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The show is produced by SSTI founder Benjamin Wolfe, directed and choreographed by Jerry Jay Cranford, with musical direction by Andrew Haile Austin and based on the book by Brooks and Thomas Meehan. With music and lyrics by Brooks, “Young Frankenstein” the musical is positively killer — and trust me, if you know the piece, rest assured, all of your favorite parts and quotes are fully in place. If you have never seen it, prepare yourself: It is a joy to behold, a laugh a minute and you will absolutely savor it, start to finish.
The gifted, talented and inspired cast of 26 performers, actors, singers and dancers supported by the incredibly accomplished orchestra members bring you a peerless performance. Each cast member, no matter his or her role, is outstanding during individual performances, as well as when each is involved collectively in ensemble productions. Through it all, I must say again, the music coming from the stage and from the pit is spot on.
It is clearly time to mention that skilled SSTI technicians see to the mechanics of the show. The sets appear magically and move swiftly and silently to just the right place. The lights overhead are right where they need to be, and the additional “for effect” lighting is absolutely on the mark. The sound technicians see to the balance so that we, in the audience, hear every well-chosen word. The colorful costumes create another reference to the time and place, and the wigs of every style and description are simply brilliant.
The other phenomenally good news about the sets is that these completely stop-you-in-your tracks sets come directly from the National Touring Broadway show. Wait until you see the stage-filling ship, dockside at the Hudson River, Pier 57; the Castle Frankenstein and the Grand Hall, which includes the huge doors and famous knockers; the revolving book cases with candles; the enormous full-scale staircase; and especially the laboratory.
With all of the lights, the chains, the life-creating machine and the brain transporter, each is there in its proper place. Oh, and so is the stage of the glitzy theater where The Monster and Dr. Frankenstein offer my favorite scene of all time, “Puttin’ on the Ritz.”
The script for the musical follows pretty closely to the storyline of the successful black-and-white film.
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein, a doctor, scientist and medical lecturer, (who calls himself Fronckensteen, because he felt his grandfather was a madman and he did not want to be associated with him), is notified that his mad scientist grandfather has died and left him his castle in Transylvania, and further, that he must come to Transylvania to complete the inheritance transaction. The story then is about his leaving his New York home and fiancée, Elizabeth, to travel to Transylvania, where he’ll be assisted by the son of his grandfather’s assistant, Igor (pronounced eye-gore) and work toward building the trust of the villagers, as he actually decides to continue his grandfather’s work.
We meet Olga, whom Igor feels will be a perfect lab assistant; Inspector Kemp, who has a wooden arm and leg, an interesting story and wonders about the activities at the castle; Frau Blucher who then, and now, oversees the activities at the castle; and the blind hermit. Most especially, you’ll come face to face with the gangly, green-faced monster, equipped with all of the accoutrements of monsterhood, and enjoy fully his transition from his full-throated grunts and unusual posture to his full-throated singing and his crack-ace tapping. What a guy!
The scenes flow incredibly, offering everybody’s favorite musical numbers. The performances in every one are A-1, and you will particularly love Elizabeth’s “Please Don’t Touch Me”; “Together Again for the First Time,” with Frederik and Igor; Inga’s “Roll in the Hay,” with Igor and Frederick; “The Family Business,” with Victor, Frederick and the Ancestors; “He Vas My Boyfriend” of Frau Blucher; “Transylvania Mania,” with Igor, Frederick, Inga, Kemp and Villagers; and again, “Puttin’ on the Ritz,” with Frederick, The Monster, Inga, Igor, Frau Blucher and the ensemble.
This is Brooks’ affectionate spoof about Frankenstein and horror stories — and you’ll love every minute of it!
Artist, musician, teacher and writer Nancy K. Wellard focuses on portraying and promoting the cultural arts, first in Los Angeles and, for close to 30 years, in the Lowcountry. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you go
- What: Mel Brooks’ “Young Frankenstein” the musical
- Where: Seahawk Cultural Center on the campus of Hilton Head High School
- When: 7:30 p.m. Aug. 4-5, 2 p.m. Aug. 6
- Tickets: $25
- Details: 866-749-2228, HHISummerMusicals.com