Written by Alina Mae Wilson
Simply because of its universal infamy, the story of Frankenstein’s monster is heralded as one of the most well-known horror stories of all time. You don’t need to read the book to get the reference. Anyone and everyone who has gone trick-or-treating at least once is familiar with the image of the stocky green monster staggering about with his arms stretched rigidly outward. If you HAVE acquainted yourself with the original source material, you know that the story of the gargantuan creature cast out from society is tragic as well as terrifying. But fear not –over at the Huntington Beach Academy for the Performing Arts, they have opted for a significantly brighter approach. They are doing the Mel Brooks’ musical Young Frankenstein, which although quite long, is well acted, well sung, and brimming with trollish humor.
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (pronounced per his insistence as Fronkensteen) is perfectly delighted to be teaching the science of the human brain to students at a prominent American college. He loves his work; he’s engaged, and he’s perfectly content to avoid the infamy of his family name. Unfortunately his mad-scientist grandfather has passed away, leaving him the entire family estate and obligating his grandson to visit and take charge of the home. The young Frankenstein leaves his image obsessed fiance for Transylvania in order to handle the necessary affairs, and along the way makes a few hilarious new friends: the hunchbacked Igor, the voluptuous Inga, and the formidable housekeeper Frau Blucher.
This is by far the raunchiest high school performance I have ever seen. A lot of the humor is sexual (“He has a huge Schwanzstücker!”), but the language is such that it would fly right over the heads of younger members people in the audience, if you chose to bring them. Personally, given the length of the show, I wouldn’t. Including intermission the whole production stretches to nearly three hours. Bringing young children seems risky to me, buy I did see several young children in the audience the night I attended. Furthermore, I do not particularly care for the music. It is all fast, upbeat, and quirky, and I prefer more dramatic songs. As such, my favorite song in the show is “Please Send Me Someone” (sung the night I saw it by Annalise Fuji). It is somber with the perfect touch of humor in it. Despite the high caliber performances from each of the young performers, the music is old-school Mel Brooks and not my favorite thing to hear. It is, however, quite enjoyable to see.
The choreography displayed here is terrific. It’s energetic and vivacious in such a manner that it is hard to look away. I love seeing all these sprightly young people jump around. Together Again,” performed by Austin Schulte (Frederick Frankenstein) and Marcus Veyette (Igor) immediately comes to mind. “Roll in the Hay” is also a fun one. It is not danced, but it takes place on a hay cart, and with a projection shone on the backdrop behind it, it presents the very successful image of a cart moving along the road.
The story in general is as goofy as all get out. Sex jokes, hunchback jokes, jokes about wooden hands and goofy names abound. Surprisingly things feel a little slow during the first act, if only because the script is a somewhat by-the-numbers comedy. We as the audience kind of know where the plot is going. Even if we don’t, there are no real surprises in the plot. Things pick up in Act 2 when tap dancing lunacy makes an entrance in the form of broken cutlery and gigantic wigs. You have absolutely no idea what is going to happen, and will probably spend a good chunk of time gazing slack-jawed at the stage, giddily asking yourself, “Where in the name of Mary Shelley is this going?“
Choreography: superb. Singing: superb. Acting: superb. Lighting: superb. Everything about the way this performance is put on is top-notch. The young actors are remarkably talented. The night I saw the show, Austin Schulte (Young Frankenstein), Marcus Veyette (Igor), Allison Bossart (Inga), Malia Merrill (Elizabeth) , and Bailee O’Connor (Frau Blucher) were the leads, and they were excellent. Although the score is not my cup of tea, performance wise I could not ask for more.
March 23 – 25 2018
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