By Jean Lowerison | Theater Review
A musical version not to miss
For my money, there’s no better comedy than anything by that crazy Mel Brooks, who gave us (among other things) “The Producers” and the later “Young Frankenstein.”
San Diego Musical Theatre (SDMT), which seldom disappoints, has pulled out all the stops for its musical version of “Young Frankenstein” and it’s a winner with a capital W. It plays through Oct. 28 at the Horton Grand Theatre Downtown.
This version stars Kevin Hafso Koppman as Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (pronounced “Fronkensteen” to distinguish him from his grandfather, Dr. Victor von Frankenstein, who created life – and a monster – in a medical experiment gone wrong). Frederick is dean of anatomy at the “Johns, Miriam and Anthony Hopkins School of Medicine.”
When word comes that Grandpa is dead, the villagers rejoice – until informed that the Frankenstein name lives on in Frederick, who must be notified.
Frederick isn’t exactly thrilled at this news either but is told he must go to Transylvania Heights or forfeit the family estate. He says a teary farewell to his hoity-toity “don’t-touch-me” girlfriend Elizabeth (Melina Kalomas, tall and gorgeous, with a huge, lovely voice) and goes off to the Transylvania station.
That’s how it starts. The usual crazy things are here, including frowning housekeeper Frau Blücher’s effect on horses (they neigh whenever her name is mentioned, but look around whenever Elizabeth is near), and Elizabeth’s “Please Don’t Touch Me” number, which dissolves into a new dance craze.
SDMT amplifies the looniness with things like a monster puppet almost the height of the stage and some crazy, impossible-looking tap dancing by the “real” Monster (Donny Gersonde), tall enough without what look to be 5-inch platform shoes. Credit Daniel Smith for the terrific choreography.
Larry Raben directs a top-notch cast without a single weak link. Hafso Koppman pays Frederick with dread which turns to fresh-faced enthusiasm after he reads Grandpa’s papers and concludes that “this could work.” This sets us up for the monster story we’re all familiar with.
The rented sets look great. Michelle Miles handles lighting well, and Kevin Anthenill’s sound design surprises at all the right times.
Janet Pitcher’s costumes contribute atmosphere, as do Peter Herman’s hair and wig designs.
Don Le Master conducts the fine 14-member orchestra, and everybody including the audience leaves – almost reluctantly – after a terrific time in the theater.
The 2008 musical “Young Frankenstein” was snubbed by the Tony’s (it was the year of “In the Heights” and the “South Pacific” revival), but this version is one to treasure. Don’t miss it.