CMPAC’s Young Frankenstein is top caliber theater!
BY SAM DESMOND
With writing a foundational aspect of any performance, there is perhaps no one who gives as solid footing and as ripe of an origin point for other artists as Mel Brooks does.
The CM Performing Arts Center’s production of Young Frankenstein, the raucous romp through Transylvania (whose tourism board is a delightful acapella group that director Jordan Hue managed to maneuver into a preppy segue of old college fun) is not only perfect for the Halloween season, but a production that showcases triple-threat talent that is usually only found under the lights of Broadway.
Hue’s vision for Young Frankenstein is a barrage of sensory pleasures for the seasoned patron to be renewed in the magic of musical theater. Every lead, every ensemble member seems to be playing at the height of their game and culminating into a show that reminds us why the stage is elevated and honored in our culture.
Scenic designer, John Mazzarella, who is known for his lavish and intricate sets that could be shot for cinema as well, captured both the campiness of Young Frankenstein and the gothic European ambiance harkening to the films of Bela Lugosi. Particularly in Frederick Frankenstein’s lecture on his love for the brain (which is an Olympic hurdle of lyrical fluidity that Kevin Shaw delivered effortlessly), Mazzarella’s 1960s kitsch is found throughout that set. Shaw’s Don Draper-esque countenance and restrained persona was an anchor for the entire production.
Ronald R. Green, III’s costume design was inventive and distinctive with characters embodying their archetype roles. In “Join the Family Business,” Green gets experimental and to probing effect with a Bauhaus-like collection of ancestors clad in white.
Of course, what Mel Brooks musical would be complete without a buxom blonde, and Courtney O’Shea’s Inga was spectacular in her powerful voice and stellar comedic acting. In her introduction song, “Roll in the Hay” she yodeled while feigning a bumpy ride and even sang upside down.
Another vamp was Erica Giglio Pac as Frau Blucher whose sensual yearnings in “He Was My Boyfriend” was enchanting and her vocal work for the challenging song was incredible and satiating for an audience that expected lots of laughter.
Andrew Murano’s Igor was a combination of Uncle Fester zeal and Uncle Buck humor. Although beholden to Dr. Frankenstein, Murano’s Igor was quite a scene stealer with his dragging steps and impeccable delivery.
Thomas H. Anderson, who has previously played swanky and hunky roles like Gaston in Beauty and the Beast and the Elvis-like impresario in Bye Bye Birdie showed his tremendous range in the role of the Monster with an impressive mix of clunky charm and ingratiating heart that made the character truly a creation of imagination and a little bit of madness.
Performing the entire role in seven (possibly eight?) inch platform shoes was reminiscent of Angel in Rent’s gymnastically challenging performance in “Today 4 U,” but Anderson made his footwork lighter than air and elegant with Melissa Rapelje’s fast-moving, but precise choreography.
With every iteration of dance blocking, going from solos, to duets, to trios, to full on group performances, Rapelje’s choreography was fluid, cohesive, and incredibly exciting to watch as she drew out the technical strength of the cast. Young Frankenstein is one of those rare musicals that invites the audience to have fun while also being enamored by the high bar set for the performers. And CMPAC’s production of this beloved spooky musical is definitely puttin’ on the glitz.
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