‘Young Frankenstein’ – boffo
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By Jud Snyder  May 17, 2013 12:00 am

Does anyone know if Romania’s still running tourist buses to Transylvania? You know, where colorful farm families are chanting their national anthem, “Transylvania Mania,” or prowling woodlands for Frankenstein’s monster, who got a bad rap two generations ago in his hometown.

Maybe you’re hesitant about visiting Transylvania this year. So your best alternative this weekend is the box office at Spreckels Performing Arts Center, where “Young Frankenstein” occupies the main stage tonight, Friday,  Saturday, and a matinee Sunday afternoon. 

This is a truly manic Mel Brooks production. “Bobbsey Twins at the Seashore” it ain’t. Harry Potter scrambling in caves to find a rare illustrated manual on brain surgery it’s not.  Instead, it lays out little time for theatergoers to catch their breath between songs and crisp dialogues. No one bothers to explain the whiz-bang gadgetry, the anatomy of Igor’s hump or what to do about the monster’s stubborn complexion problem. 

The production values created by Eddy Hansen, Mary Jo Hamilton and Elizabeth Bazzano are so professional other stage managers in North Bay theaters should be groveling at their feet taking copious notes. It took guts by director Gene Abravaya to take on this assignment. No short cuts, nothing on the cheap, it’s all first class, and that includes the music pros in the pit band, led by Richard Riccardi, a finely-tuned crew, unseen unless you peered into the pit in front of the stage. It’s the most professional show at Spreckels since “Guys and Dolls,” “Man of La Mancha” and previous musicals here. “Camelot,”  Abravaya’s previous production, seems pallid in comparison. He picked a show with what they used to call “good bones.” Mel Brooks wrote the music, lyrics and hired Thomas Meehan to help on the book. I’d say Brooks’ “bones” keep the show solid as, well, Igor’s humped back. 

“Young Frankenstein” came out as a movie in 1974 and has been on stages everywhere since, with more revivals than a string of Baptist churches. No miracles here, just strong stagecraft.

Don’t look for a plot. Oh sure, boy meets girl, meaning Dr. Frankenstein (grandson of the original) meets a gorgeous laboratory assistant and even the tall monster finds a succulent sweetheart. Then another comely villager says of the monster, “He wuss moi boy friend.” That sums up the manic mood of this production flowing from the stage to send the huge audience gleefully laughing and applauding ‘til their palms were crimson. I’m telling you, the crowd really loved it, and the theater lobby was filled at curtain fall with bubbling conversational praise.

“Young Frankenstein” has more than 20 songs and every soloist had exceptional vocal and acting talent. There wasn’t an off-key note to wince at, not even from the monster or humpbacked Igor. The large cast playing villagers fit right in with Michella Snider’s tight-knit choreography in true-to-life costumes by Pamela Enz.

Tim Setzer played the title role flawlessly and was in most of the scenes coping continually with the collection of oddballs constantly flitting in and out from backstage propelling the madcap proceedings. Alison Rae Baker amply supplied her talents as the luscious laboratory assistant, Jeffrey Wiseman was a wisecracking Igor, and tall Braedyn Youngberg made a perfect, despite his complexion, likeable and somewhat perplexed monster. He has a language problem at first, but thanks to a brain transplant he’s hailed as “one of us” by the villagers. Don’t bother asking how this bit of surgery works. 

The only problem is this sparkling production closes this weekend after a too-short run of nine days. Judging by the crowds jamming the lobby for tickets before 7:30 on opening night, it’s gonna come awfully close to a sellout this weekend. If you get this week’s Community Voice before 5 p.m. Thursday, unzip your cell phone and nail down seat reservations at 588-3400. It’s the best show staged by the Spreckels Theater Company, by far, this season.

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