You are probably familiar with the famous “It’s Alive!” reference, and with Halloween fast approaching, ready to see many Frankenstein monster costumes out and about. But could you ever imagine Frankenstein’s frightening monster singing and even tap dancing on stage?
The new Mel Brooks musical, “Young Frankenstein,” will continue to run at the Apollo Civic Theater in Martinsburg, W. Va. this weekend and will feature Shepherd students and an alumnus as performers in the larger-than-life musical adaptation of Brook’s horror movie spoof.
Directed by Terri Magers, musically directed by Allison Shaffer and choreographed by Shepherd student Shannen Banzhoff, “Young Frankenstein” is based on Brooks’ cult classic 1974 film of the same name. Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (Andrew Baughman), the grandson of the infamous Dr. Frankenstein, creator of the Frankenstein monster, is living and working peacefully in 1930s New York City with his “adorable madcap fiancee,” Elizabeth Benning (played by Shona Gardner). Suddenly, he is summoned to Transylvania to settle his deceased grandfather’s estate and meets his new hunchbacked lab servant, Igor (Matt Baughman), sexy lab assistant Inga, (Amanda Herold), and housekeeper, Frau Blucher (Lauren Hugg), who all expect him to create a new monster!
“The show itself will have you laughing in the aisles until your sides hurt, and then you’ll keep laughing some more! Whether you’re familiar with the movie or not, Mel Brooks is a comedy genius and he wrote the book and music for the show too. This isn’t someone else’s interpretation of Mel Brooks; this is Mel Brooks himself. And if you are familiar with the movie, every iconic punch line and quote is included in the script,” said Banzhoff.
Though the original Brooks comedic story is faithfully followed, the musical presents some new scenes, and 20 songs and dance numbers, including the famous “Puttin’ on the Ritz” dance sequence.
“My favorite memory [of rehearsal] is when we learned ‘Puttin’ on the Ritz.’ It is very difficult to teach a group of people at different dance experience levels how to tap dance, but we got through it and ‘Ritz’ is awesome and so fun to perform,” said Shepherd student Yanira Diaz, who plays many ensemble characters in the show.
“The most challenging part of rehearsals is definitely getting the dances to look clean and crisp. I sometimes choreograph a level higher than my dancers are capable of to try to push them, but sometimes I just have to adjust or change the choreography, which can be challenging for not only me, but for the cast too. The most interesting part by far is seeing my choreography come to life. It’s so neat to see something from inside my head being performed by so many people,” said Banzhoff.
The large ensemble cast in the musical plays several different characters throughout the show, ranging from Transylvanian townspeople to medical students to ghosts to New York socialites. The musical is also a very grand-scale production, with many different set changes representing locations ranging from classrooms to laboratories to town squares to haunted forests. The show is firmly rooted in the 1930s style of music and comedy, and many of the musical numbers evoke the brassy, swinging, big-band style of pre-World War II music.
“One of the most challenging parts is keeping up with the time period. The way people would react to things nowadays is definitely not the same as how they react in ‘Young Frankenstein,’” said Diaz.
“Mel Brooks created such gems [of characters] and it is so much fun to watch the actors, especially Dr. Frankenstein, Igor and Inga materialize right on stage. The cast is so much fun and full of energy,” said Banzhoff.
“It is just a hilarious show! You will have as much fun watching it as the people performing!” said Diaz.
“Young Frankenstein” runs Sept. 20-21 at 8 p.m. and Sept. 22 at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 for evening performances, $12 for matinee and $7 for all performances with a valid student ID. For more information, please visit www.apollo-theatre.org.