Of the Classic Movie Version Just in Time for Halloween
TR Robertson– No one does sexual innuendo, tongue-in-cheek comedy better than a good Mel Brooks comedy and his 2007 musical version of his 1974 comedy horror film, “Young Frankenstein” certainly fits that description. The San Diego Musical Theatre production fills the theatre with high energy dancing, clever songs, fast paced antics, loads and loads of funny moments and above all, great acting.
Brooks’ musical opened on Broadway in 2007, after his highly successful 2001 hit “The Producers”. “Young Frankenstein” was nominated for 3 Tony’s, 5 Drama Desk awards and won the Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Musical.
The SDMT production is directed by Larry Raben , who directed “La Cage Aux Folles”. His Artistic & Production Team included Choreographer Daniel Smith, Set Designer Mathys Herbert, Lighting Designer Michelle Miles, Sound Designer Kevin Anthenill, Costume Designer Janet Pitcher, Property Master Heather Longfellow, Hair & Wig Designer Peter Herman, Make-up Designer Denice Paxton, Technical Director Stephen Longfellow and Production Stage Manager Matthew Bantock.
Quick set changes made the stage look like a village plaza one minute or the laboratory of a mad scientists the next. A very impressive, large multi-pieced Frankenstein monster appears in one of the dance scenes. The 14 piece “Young Frankenstein Orchestra”, under the direction of Don Le Master, filled the Horton Grand with a sense of surround sound.
Photography by Ken Jacques
But the key to this musical, as the key to any successful performance, is the singing and acting, and this show has lots to go around. Led by Kevin Hafso Koppman as Dr. Frederick Frankenstein, the cast could not have been more perfectly picked. Koppman, as Dr. Frankenstein’s grandson, even had that Gene Wilder look about him. His last performance was as Hysterium in the highly successful North Coast Rep production of “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum”. He moves with ease on stage, complete with the comic flair of momentary pauses and stares out to the audience at precise times. His timing with the rest of the cast doesn’t miss a beat.
Playing Dr. Frankenstein’s most unusual assistant, Igor, is Jonathan Sangster. Jonathan has been in a number of SDMT productions and other regional production including a Craig Noel Award nominee for his role as Ali Hakim in “Oklahoma” at Carlsbad’s New Village Arts. As Igor, to put it in his words, he was hilarious “creepin’ around the SDMT stage”. One side note audiences have fun with is following the hump he wears as part of his costume and seeing which area it will appear on every time he is on stage. One of the funniest scenes of the musical is the Hay Cart ride with Dr. Frankenstein, Igor and Inga, complete with large horses that get into the action of the bumpy wagon ride.
The Monster Dr. Frankenstein builds is played brilliantly by Donny Gersonde, a multi-SDMT performer. He brings out the scary side of the creature, the tender side of the creature, the funny side of the creature and a very unusually entertaining musical side of the creature when he performs “Puttin’ on the Ritz”.
Playing Inspector Kemp and the Blind Man is Troy Tinker-Elliot, making his debut on a San Diego stage. Another physical feature in this production is the Inspector’s artificial hand that seems to have a mind of its own. The German accent Tinker-Elliot use for the Inspector is a little hard to understand at times, but enough people know the story to “get” what is going on. The encounter between the Blind Man and The Monster has the audience in stiches. Tinker-Elliot’s strong voice stand out in “Please Send Me Someone” as a build up to the scene.
One of the outstanding features of this musical is the strong acting and voices of the three female leads. Playing the sultry, funny Inga, the Doctor’s assistant, is Kelly Derouin, making her SDMT debut. Playing the good Doctor’s sexy, distant fiancé, Elizabeth, is Melina Kalomas who performed in a National Tour of “Young Frankenstein”. And playing the mysterious, matronly mistress of the Frankenstein castle, Frau Blucher, is Christine Hewitt, a veteran of many regional theatre performances. Hewitt brings a comic flair to the dour Frau Blucher. The third physical human feature of this musical is the mole on Frau Blucher’s face, which, like Igor’s hump, moves around to a different location in every scene. Along with this, a chuckle from the audience arisies each time Frau Blucher’s name is mentioned and horses winnie. All three ladies have numerous opportunities to show great range in their voice. The stand-out numbers include Derouin singing “Listen to Your Heart” in Frankenstein’s Laboratory, Kalomas singing two very humerous songs, “Please Don’t Touch Me” and “Deep Love”, and Frau Blucher’s “He Vas My Boyfriend”.
The thirteen member Ensemble, under the direction of Choreographer Daniel Smith, has a number of opportunities to take part in catchy dance routines and quick costume changes to be townspeople in one scene or scientists in another.
This goofy spoof on a horror story is a very entertaining and fun way to spend an evening in the Gas Lamp District of Downtown San Diego. The musical does run around 150 minutes, but it passes quickly with what is happening on stage.
The San Diego Musical Theatre production at the Horton Grand Theatre, 444 Fourth Avenue, will run until October 28th. Tickets are available at www.SDMT.org or call 858-560-5740. Next up for SDMT will be their Christmas musical, “Miracle on 34th Street” beginning on November 23rd.