REVIEW: "FRANKENSTEIN: A New Musical"—GCG Theatricals

Updated: Feb 15, 2021

“I Never Saw a Man in So Wretched a Condition.”

GCG Theatricals’ latest production of “FRANKENSTEIN: A New Musical,” which premiered on Facebook Live and YouTube Live, February 12th at 7pm PST to much admiration and praise, is a stage musical adaptation inspired by Mary Shelley's 1818 novel, with music by Mark Baron and book and lyrics by Jeffrey Jackson, original story by Gary P. Cohen and direction and editing by Garrett Chandler.

GCG Theatricals, fast making a name for themselves for their high-quality streaming productions, has earned another merit badge to go along with last September’s grand showpiece, “Chess The Musical.”

With earnest ballads and soaring ensemble numbers, this tragic love story and exploration of humanity breathes new life into the world-renowned story of man and creator pitted against one another in epic battle. In his quest to discover the secret of life, Victor Frankenstein, a brilliant young scientist, challenges the laws of nature and mortality and creates a human of his own design that turns out to instead be a horrifying beast —a creature thirsting for revenge upon the creator who abandoned him.

Imagine a world without grief and pain. It is this noble goal which first compels Victor Frankenstein to pursue his dreams of reanimating life. Having lost his mother to Scarlet Fever, he vows to rid the world of the strife of death. Unfortunately, the creature Frankenstein brings back to life will ultimately wreak havoc on everyone around him. Nature doesn't always appreciate being toyed with.

"FRANKENSTEIN: A New Musical" explores the full gamut of human experience like no other musical ever written. Forget all you have seen in the movies —this is not a Hollywood scare-fest populated by lumbering ghouls and wild-eyed maniacs. This is a fresh look at Mary Shelley’s original, brilliant, romantic terror —a dark vision of what lies at the depths of the human soul and what happens when its full power is unleashed.

“Am I alive or in Purgat’ry? Am I insane?”

The musical’s creators have pointedly said that their goal was to return the story to its uncorrupted roots in the Shelley novel. First published over two centuries ago, the book has long been a staple of English lit classes, hailed as a dark twist on the classic creation myth and as a potent exploration of the troubling conflict between man’s desire for knowledge and the hubris that blinds him to the potential consequences of that quest.

Mr. Baron’s music combines elements of Broadway pop splashed with tinges of Jekyll & Hyde and Les Miserables, and stirred with a few thrashing rock-flavored anthems to liven things up, even as it chills our bones. The show is nearly altogether “sung-through,” meaning there is very little spoken dialogue, evoking the feeling of a modern operetta. Mr. Jackson’s lyrics are gothic-tinged breast beaters, studded with aesthetic metaphors, emotion and descriptive language. Lyrics touch upon themes of isolation, distrust, unrequited love, spiritual uncertainty, loss, pain, failure, and an ample dose of madness.

Nicholas Sloan (“Jesus Christ Superstar;” “Les Miserables”), who plays the title role with unflinching commitment, sings many an urgent anthem, keeping the ethereal, ambient and dark waves alive. Keep in mind, however, Frankenstein’s the man, not the monster.