By Merle Exit
Mel Brooks has invaded Jamaica Estates in the form of community theater as Royal Star Theatre presents “Young Frankenstein,” the musical.
Directed by Maryellen Pierce, who choreographed the production with Amanda Montani, you can expect to be highly entertained. Adapted from the movie, it basically retains the same plot.
In 1934, the villagers of Transylvania are celebrating the funeral of the mad scientist Dr. Victor von Frankenstein. Inspector Kemp (Kieran Larkin), who has a wooden right arm and left leg, talks about the existence of Frederick (Giovanni Marine), Victor’s scientist grandson. The Village idiot, Ziggy (Ellen Armet), tries to convince the villages that a New York doctor would never come to Transylvania.
Frederick, ashamed of his heritage, insists his name is pronounced “Fronkensteen,” one of many running gags. After learning that he has inherited his grandfather’s castle in Transylvania, he is forced to resolve the issue that goes along with the property. As Elizabeth Benning (Amanda Doria), Frederick’s fiancée, sees him off to Transylvania it is clear that their relationship is far from physical, with Elizabeth enumerating all the situations of abstinence, singing “Please Don’t Touch Me,” an ode to her breasts.
Arriving at Transylvania Heights, Frederick meets the hunchback Igor (Mike Park), pronounced “Eye-gore,” one of two running jokes, as the hunch keeps moving around being the second. He is the grandson of Victor’s henchman, who is quite happy to meet Frederick. Igor tries to convince him to continue in Victor’s footsteps and has already hired the services of Inga (Stephanie Sands), a yodeling lab assistant with a degree in Laboratory Science from a local community college. When they reach the castle, they meet the mysterious Frau Blücher (Donna Falzon), whose spoken name always frightens the horses, which served as another running gag.
Frederick falls asleep at the castle and dreams that his ancestors are encouraging him to create a monster. Awakened by Inga, they find the secret entrance to his grandfather’s laboratory behind a book case by following eerie violin music. This is where a gag sequence about a candle occurs. The mysterious violin player is Frau Blücher, who speaks about her past relationship with Victor. Frederick decides to carry on the experiments requesting Igor to find a large corpse and the brain of a scholar.
Igor returns with the brain, but drops it, replacing it with “Abby Normal.” Frederick creates the monster (Joseph D. Marchione who goes on a rampage shortly after waking.
I saw the performance on opening night thinking about the Broadway show, “The Play That Goes Wrong.”
The computer broke down and did not display a scheduled opening 39-second clip of the original movie. One production number uses strobe lights, which works well if someone is able to dim the lights on the stage.
There is another famous funny scene when the Monster finds a blind hermit named Harold (Michael Beltran) after breaking through his house wall. It was difficult to concentrate as Beltran’s 7-year-old son seemed to think it was OK to climb up onto the steps of stage and use his cellphone to videotape his father’s scene. He was almost trampled when the next scene brought three cast members running up the steps to get on stage.
The show’s running time seemed to carry on due to scene or costume changes. There were long periods of blackouts and Musical Director and pianist Paul L. Johnson needed to play filler music.
The best production number was Irving Berlin’s “Puttin’ On the Ritz,” beginning with the monster and Frederick taking the stage in song and dance eventually followed by much of the cast.
As for the cast, they were all quite engaging with their talents for acting, dancing and vocals. Park was entertaining as Igor, using great facial expressions to enhance the portrayal of the characters. Doria, Sands and Falzon held their vocals well. Marine was excellent, although seemed to try his best to imitate Gene Wilder.
There is much sexual humor that has to be caught. I felt that opening night jitters had some actors concentrating more on the lines than delivering them to emphasize Mel Brooks’ humor.
“Young Frankenstein” will continue its run at the Royal Star Theater, located at 179-14 Dalny Road, with shows on Friday, Nov. 10 and Saturday, Nov. 11, at 8 p.m.