YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN

Inspired casting choices and Broadway-caliber production values make the latest from 3-D Theatricals the all-around best of the six Young Frankenstein’s I’ve seen in the seven years since its National Tour arrived first brought Transylvania to L.A.

A clever black-and-white “opening title” sequence reminds audiences of Young Frankenstein’s source material, writer-director Mel Brooks’ 1974 hit movie follow-up to his old-West-spoofing Blazing Saddles.

Both Young Frankenstein The Movie and “The [2007] New Mel Brooks Musical: Young Frankenstein” tell the scarifying tale of renowned brain surgeon Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (Dino Nicandros stepping into Gene Wilder’s shoes), who, upon receiving news that he has inherited his mad scientist grandfather’s estate, leaves his prestigious position as Dean Of Anatomy at New York’s Johns, Miriam and Anthony Hopkins School of Medicine to travel to mysterious Eastern Europe.

Bidding a reluctant farewell to his untouchable fiancée Elizabeth (Ashley Fox Linton), Dr. “Fronkensteen” (that’s how he pronounces it) heads off Eastern Europe-bound to Transylvania Heights where he is greeted by a hunchback named Igor (pronounced Eye-gore) (Erik Scott Romney), a nubile blonde lab assistant named Inga (Julia Aks), and the sinister Frau Bucher (Tracy Rowe Mutz), whose name alone inspires fear in the hearts of men and horses, with an emphasis on the latter.

Despite his initial reservations, Frederick soon makes a life-changing decision—to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps and reanimate the dead, the result of which is the return to life of a seven-foot, green-faced creature known only as The Monster (Danny Blaylock).

Broadway’s Young Frankenstein (directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman) and its 10th-anniversary 3-D revival take the movie’s most memorable sequences, including The Monster’s ill-fated encounter with a blind hermit named Harold (itself inspired by the original 1931 Boris Karloff flick), the classic “Put… the candle… back!” scene, and the top-hat-and-tails musical extravaganza of Irving Berlin’s “Puttin’ On The Ritz,” stir in a dozen-and-a-half of Brooks’ catchy, lyrically clever original songs, and this being Mel, sprinkle in plenty of risqué if not downright dirty jokes along the way.

Daniel Smith recreates Stroman’s Drama Desk Award-nominated choreography to show-stopping effect, offering up infectious production numbers aplenty, including the “The Happiest Town” (which has the residents of Transylvania Heights celebrating Grandpa Frankenstein’s demise), “Please Don’t Touch Me” (featuring some hilarious ballroom dancing sans body contact), “Join The Family Business” (with Frederick cavorting with his dead ancestors), and the wild and wacky “Transylvania Mania.” (And that’s just Act One.)

David Lamoureux goes beyond merely “recreating” Stroman’s original Broadway direction, the SoCal quintuple-threat adding his own subtle tweaks along the way, particularly when delivered by a cast that pay homage to but never outright impersonate movie originals Wilder, Cloris Leachman, Marty Feldman, Madeline Kahn, and Gene Hackman.

The dynamic, charismatic, ever-so-likable Nicandros’s Dr. Frederick Frankenstein is just one of Lamoureux’s many casting inspirations. So is Mutz, who adds her own trademark brand of cuteness to the vampy Frau Blucher and sells the hilarious “He Vas My Boyfriend” like nobody’s business.

Aks proves herself as stunning (and leggy) a comedienne as she was an oceans’ deep Laurey in this past June’s Oklahoma!, Linton eschews her customary blonde-next-door persona to make for a fabulously ditzy, deliciously self-centered russet-tressed Elizabeth, and Romney nails every bright-and-bug-eyed, astonishingly erudite Igor laugh.

Blaylock’s Monster is every bit as magnificent (and adorable) as he was four years ago at Musical Theatre West, and never more so than opposite a scene-stealing Richard Gould’s blind Hermit, whose prayer to “Please Send Me Someone” gets answered in unexpectedly hilarious ways, Gould doubling as the limb-challenged Inspector Kemp.

Supporting these principal players is a razzle-dazzle ensemble to rival Broadway’s best: Nichole Beeks, Jason Chacon (Herald), Ryan Chandla (Medical Student, Equine, Ritz Specialty), Maggie Darago, Veronica Gutierrez, Matthew Black Johnson (Ziggy, Mr. Hilltop), Derek Leo Miller (Telegraph Boy), Adrian Mustain, Isabella Olivas, Dylan Pass (Equine), Tanner Richins, Dayna Sauble, Landen Starkman (Medical Student), Chad Takeda (Medical Student), and dance captain Devan Watring, with special snaps due Johnson’s not-so-clever but oh-so-cute village idiot, the four-part harmonies of the Transylvania Quartet (Chacon, Johnson, Pass, and Starkman), Elizabeth’s ab-fab entourage (Miller, Mustain, Olivas, Pass, and Sauble), Chlanda’s taptastic Ritz Specialty shadow dancer, and Miller’s unbilled eleventh-hour cameo surprise.

NetWorks’ sets and costumes (based on Robin Wagner and William Ivey Long’s original Broadway designs) look particularly fabulous as lit by Jean-Yves Tessier at his most masterful, with added kudos due Jonathan Infante’s projections, Peter Herman’s wigs, Denice Paxton’s makeup, and Melanie Cavaness and Gretchen Morales’s props.

Young Frankenstein sounds as spectacular as it looks thanks to musical director-conductor Corey Hirsch and his Los Angeles Musicians Collective orchestra, with sound designer Julie Ferrin meriting snaps not just for a pitch-perfect instrumental-vocal mix but for some scare-rific surround-sound horror movie effects.

Donna M. Parsons is production stage manager and Terry Hanrahan is assistant stage manager. Jene Roach is technical director.

A tuneful, double entendre-packed, laugh-filled delight for Brooks fans and classic horror buffs alike, 3-D Theatricals’ best-ever Young Frankenstein is the month’s most sensational Halloween treat.

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Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center, 1935 E. Manhattan Blvd., Redondo Beach. Through October 15. Friday at 8:00. Saturday at 2:00 and 8:00. Sunday at 2:00.
Cerritos Center For The Performing Arts, 12700 Center Ct Dr S, Cerritos. October 20-29. . Fridays at 8:00. Saturdays at 2:00 and 8:00. Sundays at 2:00. Also Thursday October 26 at 7:30.
www.3dtshows.org

–Steven Stanley
October 7, 2017
Photos: CaughtInTheMoment.com

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