Tuesday, March 21, 2023

‘Young Frankenstein’ production captures the spirit of the original film | Theatre review


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Photo Courtesy of the Center for the Arts

In 1974, Gene Wilder and Mel Brooks brought electrifying life to the tale of Victor Frankenstein. In 2016, the Center for the Arts in Murfreesboro is continuing that hilariously irreverent legacy.

“Young Frankenstein” is one of the most ingenious comedic films in cinematic history. This may be a bold statement, but many would agree that Brooks created something undeniably special with his retelling of a classic story. The movie allowed its actors to weave a fervent tapestry of physical and situational comedy that was character-based.

Based on the film’s tremendous success, Brooks adapted it into a Broadway musical in 2007, and playhouses have been producing the masterpiece ever since. While it is daunting to recreate these successful works, the Center’s new production engages audience members with a confident composure and some truly convincing performances.

“Young Frankenstein” manages to pay homage to the rich history of its source material without relying on past talents. This feat is accomplished through the actor’s unique line delivery and well-executed character portrayal. Acting is, essentially, based on reaction, and the show takes full advantage of this adage.

Patrick Kramer, Kevin Compton, John Frost JR., Emily Davis and the rest of the main cast are able to play off of one another with apparent knowledge of both physical and dialogue-based humor. Even with the odd nature of the script, they are still able to produce fully-developed personalities thanks to this ardent energy.

It is an absolute joy to witness the over-exaggerated facial expressions of the characters. Kramer, in particular, seems to draw influence from Wilder with his wacky presentation. From their indignant scowls to their broad grins, the expressive nature of the performances enhances the funny dialogue.

Comic relief within the play is divided rather evenly between all the characters. Therefore, the spotlight is, for the most part, shared.

There are many instances in “Young Frankenstein” where the blocking, or the particular positioning of the actors, must be achieved to near-perfection for the audience to fully grasp the moment’s humor. Thankfully, it’s obvious that Kramer, Frost JR. and company rehearsed diligently to accomplish said moments.

The musical’s already hummable soundtrack is executed well by the cast.

The song numbers allow the actors to transfer the comedy produced by their eccentric line delivery to a new, medium, providing outlets for more visually impressive physical comedy and humorous pauses.

It’s incredibly satisfying to hear passionate singing in a play such as “Young Frankenstein.” Haley Ray, who plays Elizabeth Benning produced some hilariously bawdy song numbers for her performance. The songs are humorous and insane, but the actors still provided some earnest character traits within their voices, and most of the songs were perfectly paired with spectacular dance routines. The lighthearted vigor from the other portions of the show was clearly present in these dance sequences, which were captivating.

Behind-the-scenes work in most plays is critical to the overall quality of the production. Clearly, the Center had that notion in mind.

The set changes were efficient and cleanly performed, not distracting from the immersive experience of the play. Despite some of the set pieces leaving more to the imagination, there were particular scenes where intricate design work was necessary.

Within these portions of the play, the pieces were well-crafted and added to the zany atmosphere. Lighting and sound generally go hand-in-hand in musical theatre, and “Young Frankenstein” was no exception.

Both elements were seamlessly timed and placed to support the humorous lines and antics.

“Young Frankenstein” will be remembered in the hearts and minds of fans of the genius of the original, and it lives on in the shows from local playhouses such as the Center for the Arts.

While it is certainly impossible to fully recreate the sheer brilliance of the 1974 film, the Center creates an air of sincere hilarity that reaches as close as any playhouse could. The fun-loving style elevates this performance to an exciting night of laughter and singing.

After seeing this production of “Young Frankenstein,” there is only one thing to say: “It’s alive! It’s alive!”

“Young Frankenstein” will run through Oct. 14-30, 2016. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday evenings and 2 p.m. on Sunday afternoons. For more information, visit www.boroarts.org.

To contact Lifestyles Editor Olivia Ladd email lifestyles@mtsusidelines.com.

For more updates, follow us at www.mtsusidelines.com, on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines and on Twitter/Instagram at @Sidelines_Life.

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