For a night of delightfully crass humor and classic sci-fi charm, see Four County Players’ “The New Mel Brooks Musical: Young Frankenstein,” showing weekends through Aug. 18 on the Barboursville Mainstage.
The musical, adapted from the Mel Brooks film of the same name and written by Brooks himself, tells the story of Frederick Frankenstein, a young professor and grandson of the infamous Victor Frankenstein, who has dedicated his life as much to eradicating his grandfather’s legacy as he has to his chosen profession. When word comes to Frederick that he must visit his grandfather’s estate in order to collect his inheritance, he embarks on a journey to Transylvania that brings him closer to both his worst fears and his destiny.
Full of tongue-in-cheek humor and sexual innuendos, the musical has all of the hallmarks of a classic Mel Brooks production. Offering a wealth of equally hilarious new material in addition to the more well-known jokes, the musical version is worth seeing even for those who already know the film word-for-word. While winning over die-hard fans of the cult classic may seem like an insurmountable task, by the time that Frederick’s high-maintenance fiancée starts belting out her signature number “Please Don’t Touch Me” as she bids her beau goodbye, it’s apparent that this version is up to the challenge.
Acting was strong throughout, with the standout performance of the evening coming from Victoria Clement as Frederick’s voluptuous assistant, Inga. Last seen on the Four County Players stage as Kate Monster in “Avenue Q,” Clement seems to infuse a striking authenticity into all of her roles, adding a level of lovable sweetness to almost any character. This skill is even more obvious in “Young Frankenstein,” which has less to offer within the script itself in terms of character nuances compared to “Avenue Q.” Clement’s take, mixing over-the-top sensuality with a sort of genuine affability, ultimately resulted in a more interesting Inga without taking away the humor of her character’s stereotype.
Clement’s impressive acting was rounded out by a solid supporting cast and ensemble. In particular, Linda C. Zuby stood out as Frau Blücher with her performance of “He Vas My Boyfriend,” a song that, performed less skillfully, could have come across as little more than a drawn-out version of a joke in the original film. With total dedication, cabaret-style liveliness and impeccable comedic timing, Zuby turned the song into one of the highlights of the evening. Zach Ashby, performing in a number of roles as part of the ensemble, displayed remarkable stage presence and natural ability at a young age in his Four County Players debut, showing major promise for a future in theater.
Matt Hagerman, starring in the title role, gave the vocal performance of the night. He delivered his part with the kind of brewing-just-beneath-the-surface anxious energy that one would expect from someone who is trying desperately to outrun his fate. Technically, Hagerman’s vocals were practically flawless—clean, crisp and filled with personality.
Set design expertly captured the spirit of the gothic horror subgenre, with imposing stone masonry and elaborate brocade draperies pitted against primitive medical devices and ominous-looking lab specimens, further contributing to the trope upon which the musical bases much of its humor. Costumes added yet another layer to the recognizable imagery, drawing heavily from the “mad scientist” archetype with an added pinch of in-your-face absurdity.
For those who don’t mind a little impropriety, “Young Frankenstein” is a hilariously irreverent romp into the mind of one of comedy’s greatest icons, with all the vivacity of the story’s famous creature. Don’t miss out on this one.
“Young Frankenstein” runs Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. through Sunday, Aug. 18. Tickets are $18 for adults, $16 for seniors and students and $14 for children. All Friday tickets are $10. The musical contains mature content, so parental discretion is advised. For more information or to purchase tickets, call the box office at 832-5355, or visit the Four County Players website at www.fourcp.org or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/fourcountyplayers.