The humor of Mel Brook's "Young Frankenstein: The Musical" follows that of the original 1974 film, but adds just enough new punch lines to make the show fresh for the younger generations unfamiliar with the movie. The comedy of show even sometimes exceeds that of the film, which follows the grandson of Victor von Frankenstein and his adventures in Transylvania after he arrives in town to settle his dead grandfather's estate. The temptation to recreate his grandfather's experiments on dead bodies proves too strong, and Frederick Frankenstein finds himself with his own monster and an angry town mob at his door.
The melodramatic music of "Young Frankenstein" has a burlesque, vaudeville feel to it, much like the Tony award winning "Producers" and the recent "Addams Family," but comparing the show's numbers to those of its successful predecessor has led to many mixed reviews - a shame, since "Young Frankenstein: The Musical" is a fun "roll in the hay" filled with nonstop occasion for laughter. If the audience reaction at the Fresno Soroyan Theatre Tuesday night was any indication of the show's quality, there can be no doubt that the musical provides pure entertainment.
The current NetWorks national touring cast do not overdo their roles any more than the hilarious script calls for, and they fit into their roles perfectly. Let's just say that the audience isn't alone in its nonstop merriment. Christopher Timson brings particular merriment to his character, Igor (pronounced "eye-gore"), Frederick's henchman with a hump that can't seem to decide which side of his back to stay on. Timson slumps about the stage with a cartoonish dark side, but that doesn't stop him from jumping into song and dance, especially when it keeps the villagers attention away from a certain moaning monster.
The monster, itself, played by Rory Donovan, has fewer moments on stage than other characters, but leaves the strongest mark in the show. While Donovan gets his chance to show off his deep, beautiful voice at the end of the musical, his true brilliance shines in the moans, groans and short statements as the confused monster with an "abby-normal brain." Audiences burst out in applause every time Donovan mumbles, "Puttin' on the Ritz." The Ritz number lasts longer than the memorable movie scene and includes impressive choreography by Susan Stroman. Her dances, recreated in the tour by James Gray, echoes strongly throughout the musical, giving it much of its high energy.
Then, there's the housekeeper, Frau Blucher, whose name causes horses to neigh at the very whisper of it. With her Transylvanian accent and awkward, but comedic mannerisms in hand, Pat Sibley delivers a strong performance throughout, especially in her big solo, "He Vas My Boyfriend." And who could forget the man himself, Frederick Frankenstein (pronounced "Fronk-en-steen"), played with charisma, talent and a wonderful singing voice to boot by A.J. Holmes.
Britt Hancock gives the audience one last hoot with his double roles of a lonely Hermit and as the Inspector Kemp. Hancock gives the audience a peak at his quick two second change of costumes during bows. Lexie Dorsett deserves a lot of credit, too, for her portrayal of Frederick's fiance, Elizabeth, as well. Her extravagant and overdramatic expressions add extra oomph to her character, who tells her fiance he is free to imagine whatever he wants, but "please don't touch me." She also has a fun number in the second act in which she declares that "everybody loves a little surprise," only to receive a not-so-small surprise of her own involving a very pretty lab assistant named Inga. Inga (played by Elizabeth Pawlowski) adds a lot of the strong sexual humor to the musical, aside from the sexual tension between Frederick and Elizabeth, and later, between Elizabeth and the Monster. Like the movie, the musical's humor is very suggestive, but well staged to be more humorous than offensive. The musical numbers give the show the ability to expand on the original jokes in the film.