Category Archive for: ‘Greg & Suzanne Angeo’

“Young Frankenstein” by Mel Brooks, Spreckels Theatre Company, Rohnert Park CA

 

From left: Jeffrey Weissman, Allison Rae Baker, Tim Setzer, Mary Gannon Graham

 

Reviewed by Suzanne and Greg Angeo

Photos by Eric Chazankin

 

 

 

 

 

 

Technical Wizardry, Stellar Talent Abounds in “Young Frankenstein”

You’ve got to hand it to producer, director and comedian Mel Brooks. At an age when most folks are content to rock on the porch, indulge in hobbies and visit the grand-kids  86-year-old Brooks writes musical scores and produces hit Broadway shows. Brooks is a kind of raunchy Cole Porter, mixing wit and clever rhymes with simple catchy tunes. His musical “Young Frankenstein”, based on his 1974 hit movie starring Gene Wilder, opened on Broadway in late 2007 to mixed critical reviews, but remains a favorite with audiences. The musical version closely follows the plotline of the film, paying tribute to old Hollywood horror films and the lavish musicals of the 1930s.

The current production by the Spreckels Theatre Company, at the Performing Arts Center’s Codding Theatre, is a fun-filled extravaganza with a professional polish. But what really puts this show over the top are the stunning visual effects, courtesy of Spreckels’ exclusive new Paradyne system that allows projected images and animation to become part of the action onstage. This is the first show at Spreckels to make full use of this system, and Spreckels is the only theater in the Bay Area that has it.

The plot: Old Victor Frankenstein, the mad scientist of Transylvania Heights who created the infamous Monster, has died. The townsfolk say good riddance and throw a party. Suddenly Victor’s grandson Frederick arrives from New York to settle the estate, leaving behind his deeply repressed but glamorous fiancée Elizabeth. Frederick meets Igor, the hunchbacked grandson of Grandpa Victor’s hunchbacked sidekick, also named Igor. Lovely and talented lab assistant Inga is there to lend a hand. Frau Blucher is a grim and mysterious presence at the Frankenstein castle; horses whinny in terror at every mention of her name.  Since apples never fall far from the tree, we soon have a brand-new Monster shambling around and causing mayhem. A local official, Inspector Kemp, is very suspicious of the whole affair. He stirs the villagers to action. There are over 20 zany, energetic song-and-dance numbers to fit each and every situation.

Tim Setzer, Allison Rae Baker

North Bay stage veteran Tim Setzer (Frederick), recently seen on the Spreckels stage earlier this year in “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum”, brings his usual effortless charm and comic flair to the title role. Allison Rae Baker (Inga) has the perfect showcase for her triple-threat talents in numbers like “Roll in the Hay”. Her beautiful singing (and yodeling) is matched only by her dancing, which includes some tap numbers. It’s not often you see yodeling and tap-dancing on the same stage.

Mary Gannon Graham (Frau Blucher) and John Shillington (Inspector Kemp, Harold the Hermit) recently received Best Actress and Best Actor awards, respectively, from the Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle for their performance in “Souvenir” at 6th Street Playhouse’s Studio Theater. Graham is superb, giving the Frau just the right amount of prim, brooding dominance to contrast with those times when she really lets her hair down, like when she sings “He Was My Boyfriend”. Shillington’s Inspector Kemp seems to have much in common with Peter Seller’s Dr Strangelove: a clenched-jaw accent and certain problems with artificial limbs. In a second role, he lends an air of daffy poignancy to Harold the Hermit, a poor blind guy just looking for someone to be his friend. He’s a pleasure to watch whenever he takes the stage.

Denise Elia-Yen (Elizabeth), another noted Bay Area theatre veteran, has two of what may be the best numbers in the show – “Please Don’t Touch Me” and “Deep Love”. She’s roll-on-the-floor funny as the frustrated fiancée who finally finds what she’s looking for. Braedyn Youngberg (The Monster) has perhaps the trickiest role; he completely transforms himself during the show. Youngberg shows off his versatility, especially in “Puttin’ on the Ritz”, a real show-stopper.

Mary Gannon Graham

Hollywood actor Jeffrey Weissman (Igor) has come full circle. In 1973, during his high school days in and around Los Angeles, he heard that Mel Brooks was filming “Young Frankenstein” nearby. He somehow got onto the set and met Marty Feldman, who played Igor in the film. Exactly 40 years later, Weissman is playing Igor on the Spreckels stage with a fresh, original take on the role. His facial expressions are priceless, and he’s in top form in numbers like “Together Again for the First Time”, a lively duet with Setzer.

Costume designer extraordinaire Pamela Enz researched, designed and sewed most of the costumes herself, a near-Herculean task that reaps gorgeous results.  The lighting, sound and set design by Eddy Hansen, Daniel Mitchell and Elizabeth Bazzano merge almost seamlessly with the projections to form a uniquely entertaining effect.

Weak spots don’t do much to affect the overall quality of the production. The small orchestra was off-key once in awhile. There were pitch problems with some of the ensemble cast, and the more ambitious dance numbers were uneven. Even so, choreographer Michella Snider coaxed some very good work from the cast.

Director Gene Abravaya says he and his cast and crew aren’t just co-workers; they’re in “a marriage of ideas and talent”.  He makes full use of the Codding Theatre’s big stage and fly space, the multi-story area just above the stage.  Sets, backdrops and actors levitate with the greatest of ease. With the Paradyne system, he conjures up lightening, smoke, a train waiting at a station, and scenes of village and forest. Combined with the top-notch talent, the result is nothing less than a dazzling multi-media spectacle, not to be missed.

When: Now through May 19, 2013

7:30 p.m. Thursdays

 8:00 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays

2:00 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays

Tickets: $22 to $26 (reserved seating)

Location: Codding Theater at Spreckels Performing Arts Center

5409 Snyder Lane, Rohnert Park CA
Phone: 707-588-3400

Website: www.spreckelsonline.com

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