Bob Goepfert Reviews Young Frankenstein

Aug 29, 2013

If you wish to celebrate the Labor Day weekend on a silly but happy note you can’t do much better than to attend the Theater Barn production of the musical “Young Frankenstein.” It continues at the New Lebanon theater Thursday to Sunday.

“Young Frankenstein” is the musical created by Mel Brook as a follow-up to his successful Broadway hit “The Producers.”   It’s adapted from a very popular Brooks 1974 film that starred Gene Wilder, Cloris Leachman, Marty Feldman and  Teri Garr, all of whom are in some degree, channeled in this Theater Barn production.

Knowing this is a Mel Brook creation should inform you about what to expect.  “Young Frankenstein” is filled with silly situations, adolescent-level sexual humor and jokes that should be accompanied by a drum rim shot.  Subtle the humor isn’t. But thanks to a young cast that is talented, tireless and eager to please, there is plenty of laughter in the show.

Actually Brook’s prepubescent humor is both a strength and a weakness of the show.  The jokes are so obvious as to be almost innocent, easy to laugh at, and inoffensive.  However, they are also so unsophisticated that after a while they lose their charm.

The same is true of the material.  There are some very funny moments like the “Roll in the Hay” number that is hilariously staged on (of course) a hay wagon and the show-stopping “Puttin’ on the Ritz” that has the Frankenstein monster tap-dancing. 

However there are other skits that are forced.  “Please Send Me Someone” which despite having comic moments is obvious and shallow and serves little purpose but to extend a second act that by this time is already is beginning to wear out its welcome.

The score and lyrics of the serviceable score were also created by Mel Brooks.  The exception is “Puttin’ On The Ritz,” which was written by Irving Berlin and might explain why it is the one song that stays in your head after the performances.

Despite the inconsistencies in the material director Bert Bernardi is able to keep the production flowing as he finds something worth enjoying in every scene.  This is because he gets strong focused performances from every member of his large cast.  Bernardi and his set designer Abe Phelps makes the big show look comfortable on the small Theater Barn stage.

Daniel Dunlow is a charming Frederick Frankenstein as he plays the title role with energy and wit.   Dunlow has an engaging stage presence, great comic timing and is disciplined enough not to try to dominate the show.  This is a very talented young man.

Ryan Halsaver is delightful Igor who gathers laughs every time he offers his wise, knowing smile that signals the mind of an idiot who is probably the smartest guy in the room.  Katrina Gnatek is not a seductive Inga but she does bring a beguiling charm to the doctor’s sexy assistant.   Jerielle Morwitz tends to play Frau Blucher a bit too broad, but her comic takes and superb timing add fun to the proceedings.

Overall this is an enjoyable show that offers an evening of laughs and music.

“Young Frankenstein,” at Theater Barn, Route 20 New Lebanon.  Through Sunday September 1.  Tickets $22-$24. 794-8989,

Bob Goepfert is the arts editor for the Troy Record