Baltimore is the happiest town in town because NETworks Presentations LLC made a quick stop at the Patricia & Arthur Modell Performing Arts Center’s Lyric Opera House with the sensational production of Young Frankenstein. The newest sensational gem in the Mel Brooks screen-to-stage collection this musical is electrifying with classic references from the plot and new musical twists and turns. It is sure to keep you on the edge of your seats with excitement, keep you rolling in the hay with laughter, and thrill you right to the very end. Touring Director Jeff Whiting works with Choreographer James Gray to incorporate some of the original work from Director and Choreographer Susan Stroman to make this show a smashing success.
Costume Designer William Ivey Long creates fascinating outfits for this cast. Many of the costume changes happen very quickly; some right before the audience’s eyes and Long does not disappoint with his ability to transformer things like dark mourners clothing into bright village outfits with the simple flick of a wrist. Long’s fancy sparkles show in all of the crazy courageous outfits he gives to Elizabeth Benning, the doctor’s posh fiancée. From glimmering gowns to sparkling sundresses this woman gets to wear it all. And the dapper suits polished up for the big number in Act II is nothing short of amazing.
Teaming up with the spectacular wardrobe effects are the enormous sets designed by Robin Wagner. From Frankenstein Castle (and all of its hidden rooms) to the grand village stage, Wagner gives drab a new feeling with her kooky designs that spiral up into the sky. The secret laboratory is perhaps one of the most intricately designed sets, complete with all sorts of skulls and medical instruments. The only thing that might be more impressive is the secret spinning bookcase that lets the characters access this dark and dreary mad science lab.
There is something to be said for a Lighting Designer who can truly bring the lightning, and Peter Kaczorowski does exactly that; bringing convincible lightning for the many storms and moments of thunderous chaos throughout the show. Kaczorowski’s best work, however, is showcased during the number “Puttin’ On The Ritz” where he works with Choreographer James Gray to create the most incredible moment of the entire show with silhouettes, strobe lights, and tap shoes. Together Gray and Kaczorowski will show you where the fashion sits with their combined efforts in this production.
Gray provides a stunning number of exciting and upbeat dance routines for the touring company. The dancers are beyond energetic in their execution of Gray’s designs especially as dead mad scientists in “Join The Family Business” where they rattle about the stage in synchronized chaos. And during “Please Don’t Touch Me” Gray grafts some of Stroman’s original ideas of couples spinning and not touching into his own unique interpretation of the dance craze that is sweeping Catholic girls’ schools across the nation. “Transylvania Mania” is another huge dance number that incorporates more than just fancy footwork as the ensemble goes leaping and flying around the stage with complex moves that make for a thoroughly entertaining number.
And in a Mel Brooks show you expect off-the-wall characters – and this cast of actors delivers those zany, quirky oddballs that we all remember from the film. Brought to life on stage with a little extra pizzazz, some song and dance— these recognizable Brooks’ icons will blow your mind. Elizabeth Benning (Lexie Dorsett) is the madcap fiancée who is more full of herself then perhaps Narcissus. Dorsett plays up her flare for the dramatic and is a hysterical riot with her frantic comic gestures during the number “Please Don’t Touch Me.” The energy she exudes in this song is unparalleled and with each filthy desire she expresses her hyper explosive energy reaches new climaxes. Dorsett has a powerful belting voice, exampled in “Deep Love” and in “Surprise.”
Playing opposite Dorsett is the incredibly sexy exotic Inga (Elizabeth Pawlowski). A bubbly bright vixen in disguise Pawlowski brings a level of brilliance to this show that shines as bright as the star she is. She possesses the siren’s voice of seduction for “Roll In The Hay” and when she yodels she brings the audience to tumultuous applause. Her sexual prowess is again asserted in “Listen To Your Heart” as she flirts shamelessly with the doctor. And when Pawlowski delivers her various lines in her flawless Transylvanian accent – laced heavily with sexual innuendo – she sounds so innocent that it truly packs a walloping punch of laughs.
A nod must go to the lady whose name brings out the worst in the horses, Frau Blucher (Pat Silbey). Her sensual and darkly humorous rendition of “He Vas My Boyfriend” is nothing short of sheer genius and every time her name is mentioned Silbey’s facial expressions in response to the horses are hysterical. Her comic timing is impeccable and her presence on stage draws the audience’s eye no matter which scene she’s in; a stunning performance given by Silbey to say the least.
And the show simply wouldn’t be a show without The Monster (Rory Donovan). When he first staggers to life, moaning and groaning, he looks exactly like one would imagine a reanimated man to look distressed, uncertain, and very clumsy on his feet. Donovan embodies every portrayal of the Frankenstein monster that has ever been, combines them into one fantastic portrayal and makes this monster really come to life. His performance in “Puttin’ On The Ritz” is flawless and everything one could expect it to be. In fact, it’s Super-Duper!
And they’re together again for the first time; Frankenstein (A.J. Holmes) and Igor (Christopher Timson) the most dynamic duo since good old Cane and Able. These two really team up to give this musical the sensational Mel Brooks twist it needs. Holmes has sycophantic bursts of obsession over the brain in the song “The Brain” and his perfect articulation of all the scientific metaphors at the end of the song is phenomenal. Holmes’s character grows drastically as the show progresses; from the resistant man who refuses to acknowledge his family name, to the proud and mad scientist that lies beneath it all. His solo songs are performed with great energy, especially “Man About Town” and he makes for a fantastic showman in various group numbers.
But hats off to Christopher Timson who truly steals the show. As the hunchbacked assistant to the doctor he has fruity comic gestures that make him an uproarious character that you simply can’t take your eyes off of. His energetic prancing and showmanship during “Together Again” is contagious as he dances with Holmes, the pair playing physically off one another to a degree of perfection that cannot be described. When he takes the stage for “Transylvania Mania” he really brings the thunder with his pipe-organ-esque wails and crazy body language that then leads the cast in a sensational dance routine. His facial expressions provide even more laughs every time he finds himself in a situation. Timson is the true creation of this show and gives this production an electrifying jolt.
So if your spirits are saggin’ then jump on a wagon and follow Young Frankenstein to its next tour location – as this is one shocking show you won’t want to miss!
Running Time: 2 hours and 30 minutes, with one intermission.