The ensemble, featuring many young actors, does a great job in the Pirate Productions version of “Young Frankenstein” the musical
Photo: Matic Zorman
Pirate Productions deliver a “Young Frankenstein” musical that is a rollicking delight.
Adapting a beloved book, play or film into a musical is an adventure fraught with danger. The expensive corpses of numerous failed productions litter the history of Broadway and the West End. But the creator of the original “Young Frankenstein”, Mel Brooks, has taken his 1974 cult film and stuck faithfully to the original while adding a scattering of self-composed musical numbers that easily slot into context. He had help from Thomas Meehan, who also worked on Brooks’ smash hit musical adaptation of “The Producers”. The result is a delicious romp that director Neil Johnson and the team at Pirate Productions have staged with their customary élan and professionalism at the Kinneksbond in Mamer.
The story is a satire on the 1930s Universal Pictures productions of the Frankenstein story in which Boris Karloff created the iconic version of the mad scientist’s monster. Brooks take has the scientist’s naïve and well-meaning grandson, Frederick Frankenstein (which he insists is pronounced “Fronkensteen",) heading to “Transylvania Heights” to collect his legacy following the death of his grandfather, much to the chagrin of the local populace who thought they had rid themselves of the Frankenstein curse. Frederick is aided by the hunchback Igor, vivacious blonde assistant Inga and the indomitable housekeeper Frau Blucher. Much hilarity, as they say, ensues.
As the story moves from New York to Transylvania, from the mad scientist’s lab to the village square and the forest, the piece requires numerous set changes. The problem is solved by Pirates with some brilliantly inventive projected backdrops (by Dominique Zeltzer Russel, aka VJ Ozz) and minimal physical elements--though as Johnson confided on opening night, a revolving bookcase was a bugger to build.
But it is the human presence on stage that really counts, and in his cast Johnson has found some brilliantly talented actors and singers. Top marks go to the brilliant Ciara Barker as Frau Blucher whose solo--the risqué “He Vas My Boyfriend”--is the absolute highlight of the show. But Simon Taylor-Kielty as Igor also produces some of the show’s comedic highlights in a marvellously physical performance in which, on the director’s insistence, he keeps his Mancunian accent. Igor and Frederick’s duet, “Together Again” is the catchiest tune of the night and one that the audience will be humming on their drive home from the theatre.
Victor Bonanno makes for a fine Frederick, even if his appearance, moustache, wild bushel of hair and oversized suit, recalls Sacha Baron Cohen as Borat. But Bonanno pulls the story along and his interaction with Jennie Kenton as Inga (who produces a great performance of “Roll in the Hay”) and a deliciously hysterical Catriona Gillham as fiancée Elizabeth is excellent. Indeed, the entire cast and ensemble does a great job, with Brian Parker’s “Someone” another music highlight. The orchestra, under the direction of Philip Dutton, play with the appropriate vigour and nuance.
It would be dishonest not to mention some technical problems on opening night with the actors’ microphones and a couple of times with the projections. But such minor troubles do not distract from a hugely entertaining, highly comical and brilliantly executed production that smashes many of the musical numbers out of the park.
“Young Frankenstein” is on at Kinneksbond in Mamer on 9 & 10 November at 7.30 p.m. and on 10 & 11 November at 2.30 p.m. Info and tickets here.