REVIEW: "Young Frankenstein" — JD Theatricals @ The Attic

Updated: Jun 20, 2020

"Puttin’ the Trance Back in Transylvania!"

Mel Brooks’ classic “Young Frankenstein,” a monster hit from JD Theatricals @ The Attic about a brilliant American doctor who finds his heart (among other body parts) in Transylvania, comes to life on stage this month, playing from November 8th through the 24th in a 9-performance madcap musical that looks certain to have a stranglehold on its audiences.

Nominated for 3 Tony Awards, there’s no denying that this hopped-up stage version of Mr. Brooks’s movie by the same name — which features a book by Brooks and Thomas Meehan, and music and lyrics by Brooks — certainly has a high density of talent and staying power. It also surely has the hardest-working ensemble anywhere, featuring a top-flight cast at The Attic, showcasing every one of them with spotlight-worthy material.

Doing the heaviest lifting is Jaycob Hunter (a consummate pro with an elastic voice) as Dr. Frederick Frankenstein, the American heir to the infamous Transylvanian castle owned by the grave-robbing reanimator Dr. Victor von Frankenstein (Bob Fetes), whose experiments have terrorized Transylvania Heights in Europe for decades. Mr. Hunter’s Frederick is agile and endearing, with a song-and-dance man lurking beneath his white lab coat, but doesn't at first share his late grandfather’s conclusions about reanimated dead tissue. After stumbling into his grandfather’s lab one sleepless night, however, he encounters a rousing group of spirited ancestors in "Join the Family Business," and realizes he can no longer resist his birthright.

The 1974 film of “Young Frankenstein” is a genre pastiche of dark, vintage, Depression-era American monster movies, digging deep into the trove of Universal’s 1930s films based on Mary Shelley’s monster tale. Chief inspiration came from James Whale’s masterpieces, “Frankenstein,” and “Bride of Frankenstein,” and from Rowland V. Lee’s lesser 1939 sequel, “Son of Frankenstein.” Achieving a rare alchemy in its marriage of good-natured vulgarity and the sturdy plotting of Wilder’s screenplay, affectionately blurring the lines between spoof and homage, it's still considered one of the most outrageously funny films to date, right down to its giggly smuttiness.

Described fervently by Brooks as his best work, the film, presented in overblown burlesque revue-style, starred Gene Wilder, Marty Feldman, Cloris Leachman, Teri Garr, Peter Boyle, Kenneth Mars and the incomparable Madeline Kahn, all of whom created incisive comic characterizations on their own, but are even more deliriously funny as a team. Throw in Gene Hackman as the bumbling blind hermit and you’re in comedy heaven.

Here, under the direction of The Attic’s Kathy Paladino, an energetic confluence of key players click into place to support Mr. Hunter with blooming comic invention: David Rodriguez as the Goon-y lab assistant Igor, Mary Price Moore as onerous housekeeper Frau Blücher, Nicole Gerardi as the snooty Elizabeth, Brooke Lewis as buxom lab assistant Inga, Tyler Below as one-armed Inspector Hans Kemp, and Jim Huffman as the sensitive, sweetly doltish Monster. Also in a cameo scene, JD Rinde radiates as the blind hermit whose well-intended hospitality toward the Monster goes terribly awry.

Ably bolstered by Choreographer Maureen Russell and Music Director Erik Przytulski, this wacky comedy not only surprises but adds a substantial depth of mood. The palpable collegiality of a game cast tickling each other’s funny bones comes across in a catalog of irreverent stage and screen comedy styles, fr