By Manning Harris
Atlanta Lyric Theatre is presenting “The New Mel Brooks Musical Young Frankenstein,” running through November 8. Hereafter, we’ll just say “Young Frankenstein.”
In 2001 “The Producers,” based on Mel Brooks’ 1968 film, hit Broadway with a frontal assault, won a record 12 Tonys, and became the hottest ticket in years. Stars Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick were the hottest couple in town.
Bolstered by this success, Brooks attempted similar alchemy in 2007 with his 1974 film (with Gene Wilder) “Young Frankenstein.” The critical reception was not as ecstatic, but audiences loved it.
I saw the show in a huge new Broadway theatre, but I can honestly say that I enjoyed Atlanta Lyric’s version more (and I rarely say that). The Lyric’s show simply had more giddy fun and zaniness, and this show thrives on giddy humor.
In 1934 the villagers of Transylvania Heights celebrate the funeral procession of mad scientist Dr. Victor von Frankenstein (J. Koby Parker). Inspector Kemp (Alan Kilpatrick), who has a wooden right arm and left leg, tells the town that Victor’s grandson Frederick (Googie Uterhardt) is alive and well.
In fact, Frederick is the Dean of Anatomy at New York’s Johns, Miriam and Anthony Hopkins School of Medicine. Frederick insists that he is not a madman, and his name is pronounced “Fronkensteen.” He lectures his students on the delights of “The Brain,” which “just makes me insane.”
He has a girlfriend named Elizabeth (Mary Nye Bennett) who admonishes him “Please Don’t Touch Me”; yet she seems quite the flirt with other men.
Frederick cannot resist an invitation to visit “the old country.” There he meets Igor (pronounced “Eye-gore,” please), who’s a hunchback played with comic brilliance by two-time Suzi Bass Award winner Austin Tijerina.
He also meets the spooky Frau Blücher (Marti Melle Lindstrom), the mention of whose name causes horses to whinny. Actually, another actress plays this part, but I can only give you the name listed in the program. It’s sort of a secret; but she’s a stitch. Her fond reminiscence of Victor (“He Vas My Boyfriend”) is hilarious.
There’s a yodeling, comely lab assistant named Inga (Alison Brannon Wilhoit), and she and Frederick soon hit it off (“Roll in the Hay”).
I must warn you that there are countless sexual innuendos and double entendres, but most are so completely outrageous and off the wall that you’ll probably find yourself doubled over with laughter. You may even experience “Deep Love,” as Elizabeth sings about so sweetly.
“He’s alive!” Of course there is The Monster (like grandson, like grandfather), very well played by Blake Burgess. His character undergoes permutations I can’t even begin to tell you. You must see the show. By the way, every actor I mentioned is perfectly cast and very fine indeed.
This show is very well sung; the orchestra is prerecorded, but so technically perfect that it makes no difference. There’s a wonderful choral sound from the superb ensemble. Ricardo Aponte’s choreography is spectacular. BJ Brown is the music director. The entire show is directed by Brandt Blocker.
Yes, Mel Brooks, who wrote the book (with Thomas Meehan), music, and lyrics, is endlessly inventive and manic. But for me it’s glorious that he reminds us to stop taking things so seriously all the time! Laughter is good for the soul, they say; do your soul a favor and see this irresistible show.
For tickets and information, visit Atlantalyric.com.