The Pantages Theatre
He prefers to be called Dr. Frank-en-steen, not Frankenstein. Dr. Frederick Frankensteen tries desperately to remove himself from his cursed family legacy and live the normal life of a regular scientist — who brings the dead to life. Frankensteen (Roger Bart) is adamant in leaving his past behind. If he does, he will be the first person to do so. He can’t run no matter how fast his legs carry him.
It is Transylvania, 1934, where the audience meets Frederick. A highly intellectual, humorous and dance loving genius who gets a telegram stating that his grandfather Victor, another eccentric genius, has died. Frederick takes the first coach out to Transylvania and on the way meets Victor’s former assistant Igor (pronounced I-gor) a little man with a huge hump on his back, which seems to move from side to side, up and down. Dressed in all black from head to foot, he shows a reluctant Frankensteen to his new home. I-gor shows Frankensteen every part of the house, or what he is willing to let the doctor see. Frankensteen finds grand comfort on the library. He falls asleep while reading and has the most eclectic dream about why he’s there.
He sees his grandfather Victor and great grandfather and so on; all chanting that Bart must stay in the family business. With I-gor’s help and his breathing taking looking assistant Inga (Anne Horak) try to bring back to life the Monster (an excellent Shuler Hensley). At first nothing happens but the Monster gets up, walk around, under Frankensteen’s orders and walks off stage. He’s loose in the woods. The world is in peril but the audience continues to laugh hard and heartily. SAG-award winner Bart, he played the manipulative pharmacist George in the television drama “Desperate Housewives” is a hoot and a holler from beginning to end. I am not sure how much of his stellar performance was adlibbed but he made it flow with his dialogue causing more of a raucous laughter. In his pristine gleaming lab coat, he becomes Dr. Frankenstein, I mean Dr. Frankensteen.
His humor, fancy dance moves and gregarious personality filled the theater. He shined even more with his co-stars, like Cory English, who did a great job as the humpback I-gor. The two were reminiscent of other comic duos like Abbot and Costello and Laurel and Hardy. English took on the role Feldman played in the 1974 movie, “Young Frankenstein”, but without the bug-eyed gimmick. Instead, His I-gor relies on wit and exaggerated body movements, the perfect foil for Frankensteen. Anne Horak is the sumptuous Inga is easy on the eyes and can handle herself against Bart and English no problem. Her form-fitting nurse’s uniform and little girl naivety brings out the sensual side but with a good heart and loyalty toward the doctor. Back in Transylvania, Bart left behind a self-absorbed actress Elizabeth (the delightful Beth Curry) her number with Bart’s “Please Don’t Touch Me,” is oxymoronic at best. She doesn’t want him to touch her because he might flaw her make up or wrinkle her fresh pressed clothes. Instead she coyly advises the frustrated doctor to imagine what’s underneath her clothes.
He has to imagine her red lipstick smeared, undo that pin from her red hair and watch it fall down her shoulders and her clothes fall under his command and feel what’s underneath! He can only imagine all he wants but nothing beats the real thing, you know? None of this makes sense since the two are engaged but I guess Liz didn’t get the memo. Anyways, when he meets and mates with Inga, Elizabeth is a faint memory. Until she appears in the second act to claim her man. Just a little too late, wouldn’t’ you agree? All this heat and passion already used up on a very eager Inga. Liz is not amused but as the new saying goes, love unites the absurd. Frau Blucher (Joanna Glushak) is harboring a hidden secret about her true relationship with Victor. She lets everyone know after it becomes too much too hold inside in her song “He Vas My Boyfriend”. She sings it with the yearning of a woman who desperately misses her man. I-gor, Frankensteen and Inga are both surprised and maybe a little grossed out but genuinely in shock.
English was tremendously awesome as I-gor. His body movements and facial ticks make it differently from his predecessor the late Marty Feldman from the movie. English was wildly funny, smarter than the rest of characters and a joy to witness when he takes the stage. English is the ideal comic actor displaying wonderful stage presence, perfect timing and fearless fun.
Horak and Glushak are the only form of estrogen injected into this mainly all-male production. The two characters are wildly different but complement each other. Frau is more dignified and rigid but still manages to whip out some good zingers. Whereas, Inga overpowers her beauty and destroys the mold of typical dumb blonde alter ego and instead presents herself with class, eloquence and sweet charm that makes it impossible to hate her. You just can’t.
And of course, the doctor himself was a marvel. Hysterical, talented and fun to watch. Bart definitely brought his A-game front and center. I especially liked how his voice would go from low pitch, signifying he’s at someone’s mercy, all the way to high strung when he’s severely agitated. The laughter zooms from zero to 60. This role was a perfect fit, like an expensive buying Armani suit. His high-octane energy brings out out the oomph in the audience. The slapping at the end of a joke and the stomping of feet when a point was made is priceless.
The scenery is simply incredible, like a dream come to life from start to finish. It is every scientist’s dream. Machines that light up, organized switch pads with names clearly marked, a long and wide table perfect for human experiments, should the need arise. Everything was gigantic and monstrously tall in length and height. Accompanied by the Pantages Theatre Orchestra conducted by Robert Billig is too good to pass up, especially when the music played. It kind of dared you to climb the steep hill and see what you will find. Brings chills.
As the monster, Shuler Hensley had the easy or made it look easy job. He had to look menacing, bigger than life, ferocious while simultaneously be likable perfect a monosyllabic vocabulary and possess cool dance moves. Even with his humongous platform boots, Hensley wasn’t clumsy or awkward.
Bart brought forth his vision of Frankensteen- distinguished, brilliant, and handsome and a true comedian that would make the original director and writer Mel Brooks proud. In fact, at the end, Brooks got up on stage and profusely thanked the wonderful, talented cast for all their hard work and dedication. “Young Frankenstein” is a great show to watch. The laughter, the roaring dialogue and the musical aspect makes you wish it stayed a little longer.
Young Frankenstein runs until Sunday August 8 at 1p.m. and 6:30 p.m., Tuesday through Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. at The Pantages Theatre located at 6233 Hollywood Blvd in Hollywood. For ticket information call (800) 982-2787 reserve online at www.broadwayLA.org or pick up tickets at the box office open daily at 10 a.m.