By Deb Dieckman
Back in the “Dark Ages” when I was a junior in college at CMU, some friends and I went to see a new movie at one of the downtown theaters. It was the old kind of movie house, only one screen, and no one taking tickets or making sure everyone left when the show was over. The movie proved to be so hilarious, so cool and different, my friends and I stayed and watched it a second time that night without paying again. Whoops! What movie was so amazing, you ask? It was “Young Frankenstein,” the now-classic flick by the brilliant Mel Brooks, starring the great Gene Wilder, brilliant Madelyn Kahn, and gorgeously silly Terri Garr.
Fast-forward a few decades, and Brooks, with help from writer Thomas Meehan has created a stage musical version of “Young Frank,” produced here in Greenville this summer by our own Flat River Community Players. Largely in the tradition of his earlier smash musical “The Producers,” Brooks sticks to that Vaudeville-like recipe of splashy numbers full of giggles, bawdy double-entendres, and plenty of goofy dance breaks.
The storyline follows the 1974 film pretty closely; it’s essentially the tale of a brilliant American doctor who finds his heart (among other body parts) in Transylvania. Many of the movie’s best gags have been transplanted directly into the play.
Players starring in the musical are Whitney Codling as Elizabeth Benning, Frederick’s fiancee from the U.S.; Ryan Garlick as Inspector Hans Kemp, who investigates local mysterious goings-on; Ric Davenport as the Hermit, a blind man who befriends the monster; Cynthia Ranae Karaba as Ziggy and Raymond Koren as Herald. The chorus, playing villagers and ancestors, includes Shawn Jansma, Mackenzee Thompson, Kevin Klutman, Sawyer Klutman, Sydney Klutman, Macy Risch, Hallie Sage, Samantha Shaw, Karaba, Harris, and Davenport.
Directing “Young Frankenstein” for the FRCP is Amanda Hall with music direction by Bryan Felt. Stage Management is by Karin Wahlfeldt, while Brittany Bassett takes on tech direction. Greg VanderMark provides vocal coaching, Jessica Gilbertson is creating the costumes, and Tammy Hollinshead designed the set. Kent “Skip” Schuster serves as producer.
Five performances of “YF” will show at the Greenville Area Community Center. Opening on Friday, July 8 at 7:30 p.m., the show continues on July 9, 15, and 16, also at 7:30 p.m. A 2:00 p.m. matinee will be on Sunday, July 10. Tickets are $13 for adults, $11 for students under 18, and $11 for senior citizens over 60. They may be purchased with MasterCard or VISA online at Showclix (http://www.flatriver.showclix.com/www.flatriver.showclix.com) or by phone at 1-888-71-TICKETS. Tickets should also be available at the door before performances. Please note, this show includes adult humor and situations. Parental discretion is advised.
In commenting on the audience’s reaction to the musical, Mel Brooks has said, “I love what they do. The audience knows Young Frankenstein the movie; they didn’t know The Producers. They all neigh when anyone on stage says ‘Frau Blucher.’ And they can’t wait for the Blind Hermit to spill the hot soup on the monster’s lap. It’s great to see the audience play ping-pong with the actors.”