Based on a 1974 comedy film written by Gene Wilder and Mel Brooks (who also directed the film and described it as his best), YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN was developed for the stage from a book by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan with music and lyrics by Mel Brooks. YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN was created as a musical parody of horror films, especially the 1931 Universal Pictures adaptation of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” and the 1935 and 1939 sequels “Bride of Frankenstein” and “Son of Frankenstein.” The stage production arrived on Broadway in 2007 to mixed reviews and gradually faded away. In 2017, it was revised for a London West End production and received positive reviews. With the clever and creative approach characteristic of Mel Brooks, YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN turns scary into silly, grimaces into giggles, and screams into satire. La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts proudly presents the recent revision of YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, a comedy guaranteed to result in unbridled laughter.
It’s 1934 in New York (Transylvania, too). Frederick Frankenstein (A.J. Holmes), the infamous Victor’s grandson, is Dean of anatomy at Johns, Miriam, and Anthony Hopkins School of Medicine in New York – a well-known and respected doctor who pronounces his name “FrankenSTEEN” and eschews any connection whatsoever with his mad scientist grandfather. He is engaged to wealthy socialite Elizabeth Benning (Sarah Wolter) and feels that his life is perfect. Then his grandfather dies, leaving the family castle in Transylvania to his grandson – and Freddie’s troubles begin. To be sure, the folks at the castle are a little strange: Igor, the grandson of Victor’s assistant, is thrilled to meet him and continue the groundbreaking work their grandfathers began. So is Frau Blucher (Sally Struthers), his grandfather’s housekeeper plus. With the help of Inga, a local beauty with a degree in lab assistanceship from the local community college, Freddie is unable to resist looking into his granddad’s research. Lo and behold – his very own monster (Trent Mills) – much to the chagrin of the local townspeople and police Inspector Kemp (Gregory North). All must get ready to re-ignite their torches and stampede the castle – again. And so Shelley’s tale spins off into the night sky.
Kudos to Director Jeff Whiting, who helms the tale with an eye to digging into every silly moment in the story. He is ably assisted by a talented cast who bring YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN to life (pun intended). From a lecture on the importance of the brain to the glitzy “Puttin’ on the Ritz,” Irving Berlin’s bouncy ditty, YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN will keep you in stitches. Depending on your age, however, you might want to check out who the heck Dolores del Rio was before you leave the house. Kudos to the original scenic design by Robin Wagner, which is eerily perfect for a creepy Halloweenish story. Erika Senase’s and Maggie Hofmann’s costume are terrific, along with Kaitlin Yagen’s wig/hair/makeup design (the Monster’s companion), Jared A. Sayeg’s lighting, Philip G. Allen’s sound, Eric S. Elias pyrotechnics, and Ralis Kahn’s prosthetics, And let’s not forget Benet Braun’s musical direction and James Gray’s choreography. This is a nifty production team with Hollywood Halloween aspirations.
YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN will definitely appeal to most audiences, especially if they are looking for tongue-in-cheek fun and rollicking entertainment. Horror aficionados will find lots to catch their fancies as the musical steams along its hilarious path. And fans of musicals will enjoy music provided by a live orchestra – with clever lyrics to boot. Get ready for Mel Brooks-style horror, a parody which turns scary things that go bump in the night into ridiculous humor. Laughter, after all, is the best medicine, even for fright.
YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN runs through October 9, 2022, with performances at 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays, at 8 p.m. on Fridays, at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturdays, and at 1:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on Sundays (with an open-captioned performance at 2 p.m. on Saturday October 10. La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts is located at 14900 La Mirada Blvd., La Mirada, CA 90638. Tickets range from $19 to $85 (with $14 student tickets and group discounts available). For information and reservations, call 562-944-9810 or 714-994-6310 or go online.