The Little Theatre of Alexandria (LTA) opened its production of Young Frankenstein last weekend to packed houses and standing ovations. With a book by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan, and music and lyrics by Brooks, this musical adaptation of Brooks’ 1974 comedic classic of the same name is even funnier (hard to imagine, I know) than the original.
LTA is performing the West End version of the show, which is basically the movie minus some songs from the Broadway production. Frank D. Shutts II served as director, with musical direction by Francine Krasowska and Christopher A. Tomasino, and choreography by Stefan Sittig. To create the classic horror-castle feel, Robert S. Barr Jr. has a fun set design complete with a spinning bookcase exposing the essential hidden passageway.
The story, originally written by Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder, follows the grandson of the infamous Doctor Frankenstein, who travels to Transylvania to settle the family estate after his grandfather’s death. There, Young Frederick is coerced to take up his grandfather’s research and attempts to bring dead tissue back to life, along with much singing, dancing, sexual escapades, and an angry mob or two.
Noah Mutterperl as Frederick is delightfully charming, showing hints of obsessiveness in the opening song, “The Brain.“ Frederick sings with a sciency flare about his fascination with the organ, exposing his eccentric personality and hinting of things to come. Shoutout to Tomasino and Krasowska’s musical direction — the diction right out of the gate with this number was crystal clear. And with such lines as “[H]is medulla oblongata, Tells his brain stem that it’s gotta,” that is no easy task.
Playing Frederick’s vain fiancée, Elizabeth Benning, is Liz Colandene. Colandene does the snooty, neglectful lover well and leads the teasingly, hilariously “Please Don’t Touch Me.” Couples dance with several inches of air between them as the women gush about all ways their beaus can ravage them, but only in their dreams.
And there can’t be an evil scientist without his trusty sidekick, which comes in the form of Igor (Joshua Redford), the grandson of Dr. Frankenstein’s assistant, also named Igor, though pronounced “Eye”gor for no good reason. Redford is fantastic as the kooky, hunchbacked friend who has long awaited Frederick’s arrival so the two could be (re)united, as their grandfathers were before them. Igor and Frederick perform the duet “Together Again,” complete with sideshow-style choreography and jazzy reprise.
Claire Jeffrey is perfect as the blond, lusty damsel Inga. From the ironic innocence of “Roll in the Hay” to the blatant sensuality in “Listen to Your Heart,” Jeffrey checks all the boxes as the comic leading lady.
And on stage, in almost every number, is the ensemble, who are all triple-threats. They feature Emily Carbone, Ashley Edwards, Lewis Eggleston, Odette Gutierrez del Arroyo, Patrick Kearney, Evie Korovesis, Luke Martin, and Lourdes Turnblom. They play med students, travelers, villagers, and showmen all costumed with vibrant colors, designed by Jean Schlichting and Kit Sibley, that contrast the gray dinginess of the Castle.
Young Frankenstein is one of those musicals where every number stands out, and the level of joy and laughter is so palpable that it’s hard to tell who is having more fun: the players or the audience?
Judy Lewis’ Frau Blücher — whose name garners a wild neighing from the horses each time it is said aloud — is divine as she speaks longingly of Victor Frankenstein and professes (in song, of course) “He Vas My Boyfriend” while displaying her sassy leggings with chair-ography.
The lonely, blind Hermit (James Maxted), longing for a friend, makes the unlikely acquaintance of The Monster (Joshua Nettinga), who is being pursued by the one-eyed-monocled Inspector Hans Kemp (Brian Ash). The plot is comedy gold.
Special note — Nettinga crushes with the physical comedy, which is his primary means of communication for a good portion of the show. The misunderstood, musical monster can’t help how he is! He was quite literally “born” that way.
LTA’a Young Frankenstein is a blast. The energy is high, the music is splendid, and Settig’s choreo is sharp and on point. The production is chock full of all the Brooks-style bits and the cast hits each one with great comic timing, which points to the skill and attention to detail of Director Shutts II. But we must also note the utter brilliance of Mel Brooks, who brings such absurdly, outlandish, upside-down adventures to remind us all that life musn’t always be so serious. Laughter cures what ails you and brings a roomful of strangers together.
Fit for the spooky season, Young Frankenstein is a wonderful, madcap musical suitable for family outings, date nights, and general live theater shenanigans. I have already purchased tickets to see the show again with my hubby so we can cackle loudly together. Don’t miss this fabulous production.
Running Time: Approximately two hours, with one 15-minute intermission.
Young Frankenstein plays through November 11, 2023, at The Little Theatre of Alexandria, 600 Wolfe Street, Alexandria, VA. Tickets cost $29 (Wednesday, Thursday, Friday) and $34 (Saturday, Sunday), plus a convenience fee of $3. Purchase tickets online or by calling the box office at 703-683-0496.
The program for Young Frankenstein is online here.
For mature audiences, PG-13.
COVID Safety: LTA is mask optional in all its public spaces, including its auditorium. Though masking is now optional, LTA supports and encourages those who feel the need to continue to mask in public spaces.
Book by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan
Music and lyrics by Mel Brooks
Produced by Rachel Alberts and Russ Wyland
Directed by Frank D. Shutts II
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: Noah Mutterperl, James Nugent U/S; The Monster: Joshua Nettinga; Igor: Joshua Redford; Inga: Claire Jeffrey; Elizabeth Benning-Liz Colandene; Frau Blucher: Judy Lewis; The Hermit: James Maxted; Inspector Hans Kemp: Brian Ash; Ensemble: Daria Butler (Swing), Emily Carbone, Ashley Edwards, Lewis Eggleston, Odette Gutierrez del Arroyo, Patrick Kearney, Evie Korovesis, Luke Martin, James Nugent (Swing), Lourdes Turnblom
Producers: Rachel Alberts, Russell M. Wyland; Director: Frank D. Shutts II; Music Directors: Francine Krasowska, Christopher A. Tomasino; Choreographer: Stefan Sittig; Dance Captain: Evie Korovesis; Stage Managers: Sherry Clarke, Rob Cork; Set Design: Robert S. Barr Jr.; Set Construction: Jim Hutzler, Jeff Nesmeyer, (Assisted by) Shah Choudhury, Shannon Doyle, Chris Feldmann, Julie Fischer, Greg Matthes, Diane Nesmeyer, Dan Remmers, and Kenneth Zabielski; Set Painting: Kathy Murphy, (Assisted by) Luana Bossolo, Kacie Carlyle, Shannon Doyle, Rebecca Harrison, Mary Hutzler, Patty Lord, Laura Matlick, Joyce McCue, Diane Nesmeyer, and Martha Raymond; Set Decoration: Myke Taister; Properties Design: Donna Reynolds, (Assisted by) Beth Adler, Helen Bard Sobola, Phyllis Johnson, James Lee, and Emily Pade; Lighting Design: Ken and Patti Crowley; Master Electricians: Pam Leonowich, Micheal O’Connor, (Assisted by) Beth Adler, Silas Andrews, Lloyd Bittinger, Kimberly Crago, Nick Friedlander, Lee Perna, Donna Reynolds, Sherry Singer, Adrian Steel, Marg Soroos, Danielle Taylor, and Leslie Teitel; Special Effects Design: Ken and Patti Crowley; Video Effects Coordinator: Natalie Turkevich; Sound Design: Alan Wray, (Assisted by) Keith Bell, David Correia, David Hale, Crystina McShay, Jayn Rife, and Janice Rivera; Costume Design: Jean Schlichting, Kit Sibley, (Assisted by) Janis Johnston, Ben Rafky; Wardrobe Coordinator: Robin Worthington Assisted by Beth Adler, Shelby Baker, Alisa Beyninson, Sarah Holt, Karen Maline, Ben Rafky, Eleanor Schmutz, Margaret Snow Hair/Wig Design: Kadira Coley; Makeup Design: Natalie Turkevich; Assistant Stage Managers: Joel Durgavich, Laura Matlick; Audition Accompanist: Mia Jones ;Rehearsal Accompanists: Rachel Bradley, Francine Krasowska, Steve McBride; Rigging: Russell M. Wyland; Photographer: Matt Liptak; Double Tech Dinner: Ari McSherry; Cast and Crew Opening Night Party: Genie Baskir Assisted by Geoff Baskir, Monty Montgomery; Audition Coordinator: Sherry Clarke Assisted by Kimberly Crago, Robin Gold, Bobbie Herbst, Laura Matlick
Conductor: Francine Krasowska; Violin: Steve Natrella; Alto Saxophone/Clarinet/Flute: Dana Gardner, Justin Baughman*; Bass Clarinet/Clarinet/Tenor Saxophone: Chris Epinger, Josh Saville*; Trumpet 1/Flugelhorn: Terry Bradley, Joe Krasinkas*; Trumpet 2: Hollyn Slykhuis, Joe Krasinkas*, John Nye*, Andrew Wood*; Trombone: Melissa Bayless, Scott Fridy*, Bill Wright*; Keyboard: Steve McBride, Paige Rammelkamp*; Bass: Avi Walter, Ricky Drummond*; Percussion: John (Vito) Vitullo, Manny Arciniega*
* At certain performances