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A CurtainUp Connecticut Review
Young Frankenstein

Why do they hate you? Because they’re jealous. Everybody wishes they could be like you: tall, dark, handsome, green.— Frederick Frankenstein.
Young Frankenstei
Shuler Hensley and Roger Bart in Young Frankenstein
(Photo: Paul Kolnick)
Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein lives again in the form of a national tour stopping this week in Hartford. Thanks to an exceptionally strong cast headed by three cast members from the Broadway incarnation as well as a reincarnation of the show’s monster sets and special effects, the musical offers some top-quality entertainment on The Bushnell’s stage.

Roger Bart, who originated the role of Dr. Frederick Frankenstein with Shuler Hensley (The Monster) and Cory English (Igor) also are joined by four Young Frankenstein alumni in the ensemble, as well as the wonderful Brad Oscar (Inspector Kemp/Hermit) who starred in Brooks’ other Broadway blockbuster The Producers. The experienced cast easily transfers Susan Stroman’s direction and choreography which morphs the classic 1974 Brooks movie of the same name into a stage show.

Frankenstein (that’s pronounced "Fronk en steen," he insists) abandons his adorable, but unaffectionate (at least to him) fiancée, Elizabeth (Beth Curry), and travels to Transylvania to take over the work of his late grandfather, who tried to create life from death with electricity. There, he encounters his grandfather’s servant, Igor, his stern and ominous housekeeper and girlfriend Frau Bucher (Joanna Glushak), and hires a well endowed lab assistant, Inga (Anne Horak) to help him with the work.

When Igor steals the wrong brain from the "brain depository," the Monster is born. Can he be taught to love? Of course – and since this is a Mel Brooks story, they teach him to sing and dance too in one of the funniest numbers in the production, “Puttin’ on the Ritz.”

Mayhem and unexpected romance ensues when Elizabeth shows up at the castle door. The corny, sexually charged double entendres for which Brooks is famous are in there, as are plenty of laughs, especially for fans of the movie.

The production might have been better off, however, with fewer large-scale musical numbers designed, it would seem, to showcase Stroman’s talents, rather than to move the story along. How many show-stopping numbers can you have before you feel like the show has stopped? One couple stood up to give a standing ovation after one of the numbers, only to be embarrassed when they realized it wasn’t the end of the show. In the end, all of the songs, penned by Brooks, are totally forgettable in the end. The real fun is in the characters and story.

At the performance I attended, we were treated to the addition of a surprise "character"”in act one: the recalcitrant set which refused to cooperate with the crew. The orchestra vamped while we waited and the audience applauded when the piece moved off stage with the help of a push from Bart.

English, who delivered consistent laughs all night, adlibbed about his master’s muscles and during one of the waits, said they’d be able to go one the hay ride "after this wall moves. . . " ; In addition, things could be heard clattering off stage and a black drop curtain kept failing to close so that set changes taking place behind it and the action could be seen. The crew seemed to have things under control, at least from the house point of view, for the second act.

Definitely don’t miss this one, though. It’s as close to Broadway as you can get without traveling the two and half hours.

Editor's Note: For a list of the songs, see Curtainup's somewhat less enthusiastic review of the Broadway version here                                       
Young Frankenstein
Music and Lyrics: Mel Brooks
Book: Mel brooks and Thomas Meehan
Directed and Choreographed by Susan Stroman
Cast: Roger Bart (Dr. Frederick Frankenstein), Shuler Hensley (The Monster), Cory English (Igor), Brad Oscar (Inspector Kemp/Hermit), Beth Curry (Elizabeth); Joanna Glushak (Frau Blucher), Ann Horak (Inga), Lawrence Alexander (Ensemble), Preston Truman Boyd (Ensemble), Stephen Carrasco (Ensemble), Jennifer Lee Crowe (Ensemble), James Gray (Ensemble), Shauna Hoskin (Ensemble), Matthew Brandon Hutchins (Ensemble), Kristin Marie Johnson (Ensemble), Sarah Lin Johnson (Ensemble), Melina Kalomas (Ensemble)Amanda Kloots-Larsen (Ensemble), Brittany Marcin (Ensemble), Chuck Rea (Ensemble), Christopher Ryan (Ensemble), Geo Seery (Ensemble), Lara Seibert (Ensemble), Jennifer Smith (Ensemble), Matthew J. Vargo (Ensemble), Erick R. Walck (Ensemble)
Music Supervision: Patrick S. Brady
Orchestrations: Doug Besterman
Conductor/Music Director: Bob Billig
Scenic Design: Robin Wagner
Lighting Design: Peter Kaczorowski
Sound Design: Jonathan Deans
Costume Design: William Ivey Long
Wig and Hair Design:Paul Huntley
Makeup Design: Angelina Sheridan
Associate Director: Steven Zweigbaum
Associate Choreographer: Chris Peterson
Running time: 2 hours 15 minutes with a 15-minute intermission
The Bushnell, 166 Capitol Ave., Hartford, CT
Performances: Wednesday, Thursday at 7:30pm, Friday at 8 pm, Saturday at 3 pm (later curtain because of the Hartford Marathon) and 8 pm and Sunday at 2 pm.
Tickets are $15.00-$82.00 and may be purchased by visiting
Sept. 29-Oct. 17, 2009
Review by Lauren Yarger based on performance of Oct. 3, 2009
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