They are “Together Again For The First Time” and the result is “Deep Love” for “The Happiest Town In Town.”
These are titles of some of the toe-tapping melodies which fill The New Mel Brooks Musical “Young Frankenstein,” currently on stage at Warsaw’s Wagon Wheel Theatre.
And to use still another: It’s time to “Join The Family Business” — if, that is, you can stop laughing long enough!
I really couldn’t.
Even before the action shifts from Transylvanian villagers celebrating the funeral of Dr. Victor von Frankenstein (Mike Yocum) to the New York classroom where his grandson, Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (“That’s Fronk-en-steen”) is extolling the virtues of “The Brain,” it is almost impossible to stop — laughing, that is.
Anyone who has seen the Mel Brooks movie or the original “Frankenstein,” with bits from its sequel “The Bride of Frankenstein,” will know exactly where director/choreographer Scott Michaels and company are going.
It’s good old-fashioned horror with a wink and a grin and a wonderful score, all by creator Mel Brooks (with help from co-author Thomas Meehan). Even when you can see the jokes coming from a country mile away — “Pardon me, boy. Is this the Translvania station?”
“It is. Can I give you a shine?” — it is impossible not to laugh (or, at least, groan a little).
Never mind the determination of the fastidious Fronkensteen (an absolutely incredible Ben Dicke!) to stay away from grandpa’s Machiavellian manipulations or his pantingly celibate relationship with the vindictively vampish Elizabeth (Kira Lace Hawkins in another devastating performance!).
In the end, curiosity wins and Frederick heads down to THE lab accompanied by his not-so-dumb-blonde lab assistant Inga (McKenzie Kurtz); his henchman Igor (“That’s Eye-Gore”) (Ben Ahler) whose grandfather filled that position with Victor F. and Frau (cue the horses!) Blucher (Jennifer Dow), the violin-playing housekeeper, who goes with the castle and has her own dark secret.
Put them all together, add Michael Bradley as Inspector Hans Kemp, who literally gave an arm and a leg in search of the monster, and Riley McFarland as the blind Hermit whose friendship proves painful , top it off with the Monster (Andy Robinson) him(it)self and the result is 2 ½ hours of solid musical theater plus enough laughs to keep you going for at least several weeks, all the while trying to figure out how a production on a small stage in the middle of Indiana could rival that of a big bucks production on the Great White Way.
The answer, of course, is talent, something this production has in abundance.
Each of the principal roles is perfectly cast, with Dicke’s endearingly twitchy doctor leading the way — pitch perfect in movement, timing, action, reaction and characterization.
At his side (literally) through all the musical mayhem is Ahlers’ Igor, balancing his shifting hump (”What hump?”) while shuffling along, hooded head bobbing eagerly through many attempts to bring back the good old days of corpse-revival.
As Elizabeth, the literally untouchable girlthe doctor F leaves behind (temporarily) Hawkins pulls out all the stops. Her grand entry “Please Don’t Touch Me” says it all and is a real showstopper.
The same goes for the show’s most familiar number, “Puttin’ On the Ritz” (with apologies to Irving Berlin!), in which Robinson turns loose with his ”creator” and the ensemble in a wildly high-stepping dance. It can’t be easy being green, but he delivers many shades with shifting monsterial ferocity!
Dow wields a mean bow as the original doctor’s more-than-housekeeper. Just the mention of her name elicits an instant reaction from the horses. Kurtz is appealingly dim as the assistant whose laboratory duties literally go above and beyond. The meeting of the blind Hermit and the Monster has always been one section I could easily skip, but McFarland and Robinson make it work.
All are perfectly together under Michaels’ tight direction and always-impressive choreography. With special applause to Robinson for “tapping” in four-inch platforms!
Once again, the WW orchestra under the direction of Thomas N. Sterling is a lushly supportive integral part of the production, as are Stephen R. Hollenbeck’s costumes and Patrick Chan’s excellent lighting design. All the bewigged heads of Transylvania are thanks to designer Dow. Check out Elizabeth’s final headpiece!
Ray Zupp’s set design is deceptively simple but works well in the face of the many, many, many locations and atmospheres it must represent quickly. (Note: A special praise for cast and crew members who run up and down the aisles — in the dark — quickly and quietly with sometimes very heavy set pieces.)
In case it is not obvious, this has been my very favorite show of the summer, of many summers, in fact, and I encourage you all to take advantage of its too-short on-stage life!
YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN plays through July 22 in the theater at 2517 E. Center Street in Warsaw. For performance times and reservations, call (574) 267-8041.