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Home | Maine State Music Theater Reviews | MSMT's YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN IS MONSTROUSLY ENTERTAINING

MSMT's YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN IS MONSTROUSLY ENTERTAINING

Review By Charles Crosby  •  Photos by Roger S. Duncan Review By Charles Crosby • Photos by Roger S. Duncan

To say that the 2015 season at Maine State Music Theatre (MSMT) keeps getting better would be a huge understatement.   MSMT has hit a Monstrous Grand Slam with this fourth production!  YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, which is Mel Brooks' classic 1974 comedy film masterpiece is a cleverly and wickedly inspired broadway production of the classic Frankenstein film.  The musical was nominated for three Tony Awards and a Grammy for Best Musical Show Album, in addition to winning the Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Musical.  Led by returning and incomparable MSMT Director/Choreographer Marc Robin, the cast is comprised of twenty-six professional and local actors.  This musical spoof is based upon a bright young Dr. Frankenstein (pronounced Fronkensteen) and he is lured to Transylvania to settle his late grandfather's estate and after reading his notes he decides to complete his masterwork of bringing a corpse back to life.  He succeeds with the help of his comedic side kick and oddly shaped Igor (pronounced Eye-gor), his sexy lab assistant Inga, and his grandfather's former mistress, Frau Blücher.  

I did not know that a Frankenstein Monster could tap dance and this singing and dancing experiment wears what is likely the largest tuxedo ever made.  There is so much slap stick, great dancing, singing and movement in this show that no review can do it justice.  So do yourself a favor after you read this.  Get a ticket! 
The first act is set in 1934 where the villagers of Transylvania Heights celebrate the funeral procession of the mad scientist, Dr. Victor von Frankenstein (played by Paul Aquirre). However, Inspector Kemp, played by the incredibly talented David Girolmo tells the town of the existence of Victor's grandson: Frederick, played by Jeremiah James (Billy Bigelow in the Broadway revival of CAROUSEL and who is making his MSMT Debut) takes on the film's Gene Wilder role as Frederick Frankenstein, the Dean of Anatomy at a prominent New York School of Medicine.   At times during this MSMT production he seemed to be channeling Wilder on stage with his mannerisms and I thought his portrayal of the original film character was so spot on.  The village idiot, Ziggy (played by the comedic actor Steve Gagliastro who also plays Shoeshine in this production), convinces the other villagers that there is no way a New York doctor would come to Transylvania,  and he and the villagers sing the opener The Happiest Town.  Meanwhile in New York, Frederick Frankenstein is ashamed of his name insisting that it be pronounced "Fronkensteen" and that he is not a madman but a scientist. In scene 2 James lectures his students about the greatest mind of science and sings The Brain masterfully.  James is a real stand out in this production and carries the show.  After learning that he has inherited his grandfather's castle in Transylvania, he is forced to resolve the issue of the property.  As Frederick's fiancée Elizabeth Benning, played by Jessica Lee Goldyn (Broadway's A CHORUS LINE; ON THE TOWN who has previously starred in CRAZY FOR YOU and LEGALLY BLONDE at MSMT), sees him off she sings and dances in the hilarious and well choreographed song Please Don't Touch Me
After arriving in Transylvania Heights, Frederick meets the hunchback Igor, played by Robert Creighton (Broadway's THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD; ANYTHING GOES; CHICAGO; THE LION KING; and CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG who has previously played the role of Peter Pan in PETER PAN and Luther Billis in SOUTH PACIFIC).  Igor is the grandson of Victor's henchman and is extremely excited to meet him. He tries to convince him to continue in his grandfather's footsteps while singing and dancing to the catchy tune Together Again for the First Time.  Creighton is amazing in this role and MSMT is so lucky to have him back.  I can not think of a better actor to play this role.  Creighton seems to be at home with his character and he really plays to the audience and you could tell he loves this role.  He is personable, his comedic timing is impeccable, his gestures and facial expressions are wonderful and he plays perfectly off Frederick's yodeling lab assistant Inga, played by Missy Dowse.  She has previously appeared in GYPSY and MARY POPPINS at MSMT.  During a wagon ride to Castle Frankenstein, Inga and the doctor indulge in a Roll in the Hay (the song title and pun intended). Dowse is hilarious in this scene and is well cast in this role.  The video on the screen behind the cart really adds to the experience.  She has a great voice and chemistry with James and this is definitely an adult scene when they reach their climax.  Upon arriving at the castle, they meet the mysterious Frau Blücher, played by the incomparable Charis Leos.  Every time Blücher's name is spoken it frightens the horses just like in the movie.  Leos is funny and her comedic timing is a delight to behold.  She is one of my all time favorites on the Pickard Theater stage.  Once inside the castle's main living room, Frederick falls asleep reading Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm and dreams that his grandfather and his ancestors encourage him to build a monster with the song Join the Family Business sung masterfully by Paul Aguirre (Victor) who made his MSMT debut in the MUSIC MAN.   Frederick is awakened by Inga, and they find the secret entrance to his grandfather's laboratory behind a book case by following eerie violin music. They discover the mysterious violin player to be Frau Blücher (Charis Leos), who tells of her past of festival games with the late Victor for whom she was more than just a housekeeper and sings He Vas My Boyfriend.  After reviewing his grandfather's notes, Frederick decides to carry on the experiments in the reanimation of the dead.  The Monster is played by the very talented Timothy Hughes (Broadway's CHAPLIN: THE MUSICAL) who many will remember as Willard in FOOTLOOSE last season. You will not believe how nimbly he dances in those Frankenstein shoes because he is a tall actor already and when in costume is more than seven feet tall!  
Several highlights of MSMT's YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN feature David Girolmo and include the song Welcome to Transylvania with Kemp (David Girolmo) and the Transylvania Quartet (barbershop quartet) whose harmony was perfect,  He's Loose sung by Kemp and the Villagers (ensemble), and Please Send Me Someone sung by Girolmo as the Hermit.   He is truly a chameleon and changes characters so effectively that many in the audience did not know it was him (unless of course they read the playbill before the show).  His voice was completely different and could not be further from the gruff and angry German Inspector Kemp.  His talent is clearly not overlooked here.  
In act 2, I was impressed by a great rendition of Man About Town sung by Frederick and The Monster.  Every successful show has a scene that makes it memorable and for me it was when Irving Berlin's classic Puttin' on the Ritz was performed.   In this number, Frederick, The Monster, Inga, Igor and the ensemble sing and perform some of the best choreography I have seen in years.  I could not believe how the ensemble made it all looked so effortless and I loved the black light effect during the dance number.   This earned a thunderous ovation on opening night.  Kudos to Director/Choreographer Marc Robin for this one.  It really helps to have a director who is also a dancer and really understands how to put it all together.  In fact, I still can not seem to get that song out of my head and I was singing it on the way home.  
YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN's very talented ensemble cast includes: Chrissy Albanese, Michaela K. Boissonneault, Sara Bond, Alec Cohen, James Spencer Dean, Kenneth Quinney Francoeur, Michael Graceffa, Benjamin Henley, Jordan Lipes, Connor McRory, Leah Nicoll, Reagan Danel Ogle, Buddy Reeder, DeAngelo Renard, Stefanie Sable, Liz Schmitz, and Lauren Brooke Tatum. 
I can guarantee you that this MSMT production of YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN has lots of added features that other musical theaters do not have in large part because of the talented set design and building professionals and all the technical stage personnel from stage production, to props, lights, sound and costuming.  The platform that rises out of the floor is really a nice effect.  The lab effects using video and lights is amazing.  
This is truly a great way to end the 2015 season and for all those behind the scenes bravo!  It is truly a labor of love and we are so blessed to have this gem of a theater in downtown Brunswick and I am certain founder, Victoria Crandall, would be proud.   
This will probably be the toughest ticket to get as word spreads throughout the cities, towns and villages of Maine that there is a Monster loose in downtown Brunswick.  So run down to the Pickard Theater box office to get your ticket today.  Ticket prices range from $43-$70. Tickets are available online at www.msmt.org, over the phone by calling (207) 725-8769, or in person by visiting the Box Office located at in the Pickard Theater at 1 Bath Road, Brunswick. 
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Photos by Roger S. Duncan Photos by Roger S. Duncan Photos by Roger S. Duncan Photos by Roger S. Duncan Photos by Roger S. Duncan Photos by Roger S. Duncan Photos by Roger S. Duncan Photos by Roger S. Duncan
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