YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN AT VINTAGE WILL LEAVE YOU IN THE EDGE POINTS at Vintage Theater
My last year of high school, my literature class book final report was on Marie shelleygothic novel by, Frankenstein. Since then, I have read this book probably three or four times. For some reason, I always go back to the rather dark story that inspired later projects such as the Mel brooks comedy film, Young Frankenstein. This film was to inspire its musical version, which we find to be Vintage Theater’s last production.
Under the direction of Linda suttle, the actors and the team of Young Frankenstein collectively providing a sense of so desperately needed comedic relief amid our real world circumstances. However, some aspects of production far surpass others. The highest praise has to go to the three main ladies in the cast who all so brilliantly brought the necessary “camp” to this show. Colby Reisinger is the one who understood the mission very clearly. As voluptuous Inga, Reisinger playfully controls every scene she finds herself in, which includes a yodeling masterclass. Like Frau Blucher, Christine Kahane is also at ease in her role of always wary housekeeper. Kahane’s comedic timing is on full display and will leave you with a smile on your face. As a bride “look but don’t touch”, Elizabeth, Miranda Byers is the right amount of camp mixed with glamor. Her voice is also remarkable, especially during the number “eleven o’clock”, “Deep Love”, in the second act.
In the duo roles of Inspector Kemp and The Hermit, Scotty Shaffer is also quite captivating, especially with his physical comedy gimmicks. What I appreciated the most was the sharp contrast in the style of comedy between the roles. As the infamous monster himself, Jeff Betsch is, for lack of a better expression, really very endearing in the “non-speaking” role. For a role that relies on sounds and gestures, especially in a more intimate space, Betsch takes the material and does more than blow it off the page. it almost goes back to the original Marie shelley Gothic novel in the sense that the monster never sees himself as such – simply a misunderstood creature who never asked to be created; a victim of someone else’s demented nature. Bryan Plummer as Igor also settles comfortably in what feels like real, structured, comedic relief from a musical. As the main character, Dr. Frederick Frankenstein, Cooper Kaminsky is clearly a seasoned performer. What I miss, however, is the level of “camp” required for this role. Kaminsky takes a more realistic approach to their interpretation of the doctor, which sort of misses the point when the joke is “I’m not crazy like my relatives – now let me tell you how much I love the brain.” There were also some comedic timing moments that didn’t land, especially the repeated joke referring to Inga – I mean Inga. However, I would be remiss if I did not mention Kaminsky’s expert voice that always brought him home.
My biggest reviews are mostly on the creative elements of the series. Deborah Faber’s costume design was pretty hit and miss. Some costumes, especially the ladies’ ones, were up to the job while others looked a bit sloppy. Igor’s costumes specifically consisted of mismatched blacks in the form of a sweatshirt, sweatpants, and black dress shoes where boots would have been a more suitable choice for the character. Ryan Walkoviak’s set design, with additional work from Glenn Grassi, mainly worked for the smaller theater space, though at times noisy and awkward, especially during stage changes. At one point, the cast members continued to sing along to a change of scene happening in the background, which ultimately took attention away from the choir / barbershop moment. Brandon Bill’s musical direction was a highlight among the creative elements, although the director’s stage blocking Linda suttle, especially in the ensemble numbers, did not fully provide the opportunity to assimilate everything as a collective sound. What ends up happening when the actors stand in a straight line across the stage in a space that isn’t acoustically sound is that audience members hear only the singer directly in front of them. So although the tenor standing two feet away from me sounds good, I miss the other parts, including the dominant melody. Adrianne Hampton’s choreography has experienced similar difficulties. Because the audience is so close to the stage and therefore to the actors, the greater staging of the dance numbers with all of the cast seemed way too close and at times messy. What might have been a great time to highlight the top 3-5 players in Act 2 ended up sounding cluttered and chaotic.
Overall, I think the most important thing to remember is to consider the space you find yourself in when staging a production. Young Frankenstein This is no small feat and perhaps something to consider also in terms of what shows will not only work in a space, but work best in a space. It was nice, however, to escape for a few hours and descend into Transylvania.
Young Frankenstein takes place at the Vintage Theater from September 17 to October 31, 2021. For tickets, visit VintageTheater.org.