‘Young Frankenstein,’ at Timber Lake.
By Sue Langenberg
Timber Lake Playhouse opened, “Young Frankenstein, The New Mel Brooks Musical” Thursday evening as a special area premiere. Originally written by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan the show is a stage adaptation of the 1974 film directed by Brooks and Gene Wilder.
It marks the third production of this season bringing audiences a dizzying array of energy, professionalism and quality theatre.
This TLP offering of ‘Young Frankenstein’ is a perfect storm of parody-style hysteria, outstanding direction and extraordinary talent. Mel Brooks, of course, is a genre by himself as one of few EGOT recipients, that is, Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony awards. Among his many parodies are “Blazing Saddles,” “High Anxiety” and “Robin Hood: Men in Tights.” The very titles point toward farcical hilarity. His “The Producers” also became a musical stage adaptation in 2001.
Special guest director of this show was Brad Lyons, no stranger to TLP with his 12 years as artistic director. Among his many direction successes are “Ragtime,” “Cabaret” and National Endowment for the Arts awarded, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” for Artistic Excellence. Lyons was right at home with ‘Young Frankenstein’ and brought out the best the script could offer.
This stellar cast had it all with talent and chemistry to unfold the fast-paced mix of song and dance. Returning TLP favorite Cody Jolly commanded the character of Frankenstein (properly pronounced Fronkensteen) with his many versatile gifts. His vocal abilities achieve heights all over the score from hysteria to romance with frenzied accents and madness in between, much like his role as Scottish hit man in “Unnecessary Farce” last season. He assumes character roles in a Dick Van Dyke manner, rubberized at a moment’s notice. Jolly has much promise in his future as consummate role-player, after all, Van Dyke still works in his late 80s.
No less quality performance to offer was co-star Matt Webb as Igor (properly pronounced Eye-gor) whose hump magically seemed to changed locations as noted by Fronkensteen in serious moments. Lexie Plath as attractive lab assistant Inga, proved her versatility as mistress of silliness in the first act, “Roll in Ze Hay,” then romantic, “Listen to Your Heart” in second act.
Allison Hunt as fiancée Elizabeth with “Please Don’t Touch Me,” then later her song of “Deep Love” struck a comical chord as fireworks accompanied her sudden passion for the monster. Blake Price as green-faced monster was appropriately robotic, then transformed into slick. Analisha Santini as Frau Blucher milked the role for all it was worth with gestures, stiff shoulders and ridiculousness.
Grant Brown as Inspector Kemp was fresh from his last TLP role as inspector in, “An Inspector Calls.” He was perfectly cast as a generic shady character and in this production explored beyond it as a blind hermit tripping and throwing himself all over the set for hilarious effect.
No less important to this must-see show were Christian Chambers, Nathan Goodrich, Gabriel Brown, Bethany Fay, Jessica Palkovic, Anastasia Arnold, Caroline Murrah, an ensemble array of villagers and choreographer Cameron Turner whose moves were marvelous in, ”Please Don’t Touch Me,” and Irving Berlin’s, “Puttin’ on the Ritz.”
Everything possible came together in this show and you might want to see it twice. (There are some scenes slightly suggestive for children, but glossed over because of the comedic effect.)
“Young Frankenstein, The New Mel Brooks Musical,” a show that makes you jump to your feet before the final curtain, runs July 5 through Sunday July 13 at Timber Lake Playhouse, 8215 Black Oak Road, in the boonies of Mt. Carroll. All evening performances are 7:30 p.m., (no show on Monday), one 3 p.m. matinee Saturday July 5 and three 2 p.m. matinees July 6, 9, and closing show 13. Group rates available. Tickets go fast. Contact the box office at (815) 244-2035 or www.timberlakeplayhouse.org for more information.