Review: 'Young Frankenstein' at the Fox has laughs, vocals and visuals
This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 13, 2010 - The Fox Theatre's "Young Frankenstein" started with a bang Tuesday night, May 11 -- literally. Simulated lightning bolts and unexpectedly loud thunder visibly jarred the audience as they introduced the first scene: a celebratory mob of Transylvania Heights townspeople.
The crowd is whooping it up over the death of Victor Von Frankenstein, whose monster once terrorized their village. That is, until they're reminded that his grandson is alive and working as a professor of medicine in New York. Enter Frederick Frankenstein (that's Fronkensteen, mind you, played by Roger Bart) who's come to Transylvania to settle the family's affairs, accompanied by lab assistant/seductress Inga (Anne Horak) and Frau Blucher (Joanna Glushak).
Of course, any utterance of Frau Blucher's name is immediately followed by a vocal nod from the horses in the Frankenstein castle barn. The predictable-but-still-funny neighing is just one of many classics Mel Brooks kept from his 1974 movie of same title.
Others include Igor (pronounced "Eye-gore") asking, "What hump?," Frankenstein's praise over the castle's (door) knockers that's met with a "Thank you, doctor" from the buxom Inga, and Igor's reply of "There, wolf," to the exclamation-turned-question "werewolf!"
As entertaining as is James Gray's Igor, his first number "Together Again for the First Time" was plagued by unfortunate microphone issues, rendering many of his lines inaudible. The situation persisted throughout much of the first act. However, a Fox spokesperson who was contacted the next day noted that the problem was resolved as soon as Igor exited the stage, and that no further difficulties are anticipated.
As a big fan of the movie, I kept having memories of Gene Wilder, Teri Garr, Marty Feldman and Cloris Leachman in the lead roles. But each stage actor did the movie proud and their character justice.
Glushak's winning Frau Blucher (somewhere in the distance, a horse neighs) kept the audience riveted to her every word, note and movement. In "He Vas My Boyfriend," Glushak's comedic timing and expressions were exceptional.
What follows is the expected sequence of Frankenstein denying then embracing his grandfather's work, creating his own monster (flawed by Igor's substitution of a brain that once belonged to "Abby Normal"), consummating his relationship with Inga and being surprised by his New York fiancee Elizabeth (Melina Kalomas). All along the way are numerous from-the-movie as well as unique-to-the-play corny schoolboy sexual references.
The sets change as fast as the flying innuendoes; transitioning from laboratory to library and back again seems to take only seconds. The costuming is impressive and includes what may be the world's first-ever well-over-six-inch platform tap shoes.
The shoes appear in the song "Puttin' on the Ritz," a highlight of the play's 17 musical numbers. Starting as a duet between the monster (Rye Mullis) and Frankenstein, it becomes a quartet with the addition of Inga and Igor, evolves into a full kick line featuring more than a dozen characters and finally crescendos with a commanding strobe-light, group-dance sequence.
All in all, the actors appeared to feel energized and to be having a wonderful time. The audience response to their passion seemed to echo Inga's reply after Dr. Frankenstein confessed his love for her: "The feeling is mutual."
Nancy Fowler Larson is a freelance writer whose areas of coverage for the Beacon include theater.