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Sally Struthers and Company Revive Mel Brooks’ YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN to Glorious Life in La Mirada

Sally Struthers and Company Revive Mel Brooks' YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN to Glorious Life in La Mirada
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Wesley Slade and Sally Struthers, A.J. Holmes and Maggie Ek.
Photo by Jason Niedle

After the huge critical and commercial success of THE PRODUCERS’ Broadway stage adaptation, it was only natural that theater producers would turn to Mel Brooks’ film library for additional source material.

Many would have bet on his movie. Blazing SaddlesThe victor of the horserace to Broadway was supposed to be YOUNG FRANKENSTEINBrooks’ 2007 stage musical adaptation, “The Great Black-and-White Cult Parody of Classic Monster Films” he co-wrote and directed with Gene Wilder.

The film and its stage version are hilarious madcap skewerings Mary Shelley’s classic novel. They have been filled with silly antics and dark absurdist humor as well as cheeky sexual innuendos, which have become synonymous Brooks’ oeuvre. But, that brand of humor can also occasionally feel quite dated—particularly nowadays in our more forward-thinking, more behaviorally-sensitive modern times.

The stage is still there showBelieve it or not, the film’s inspiration is even more outrageous than its own absurdity. Its hilarious moments are often based on outlandish errors, double-entendres and over-emphasized sexuality.

Perhaps this is the reason why—tired of any potential backlash—the rapturous Opening Night audiences that greeted McCoyRigby Entertainment’s winning new production at the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, October 9 through October 9, were pre-warned via multiple signs in the lobby and social media posts. show is much more humorously bawdy and crass than the normal fare that usually plays on this stage… lest there be oversensitive, über-offended patrons in attendance who dare to “Karen”They will get a refund if the jokes and scenes prove too funny Too muchFor them.

But, let’s be real, the humor in the showIt’s actually quite harmless and much more manageable than what you’d find on HBO Max. However, many of the sophomoric jokes, gags, and gags in YOUNG FRANCENSTEIN still hold up, despite some being a bit corny, some being dad-joke-y, or some where they feel they are straddling a fine line between being hilarious and being ridiculous. Oh, shit!You shouldn’t say this stuff anymore (but, lord, help me for giggling).

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However, overall, there is no denying that the production is a success, especially in the tighter, revised version that was lifted from the London West End production. It’s more sensible and snappier than the original. showThis musical comedy is funny, witty and very entertaining. It’s also not too serious. It may not be THE PRODUCERS’ kind of funny but it is definitely entertaining. showIt’s still a great show, especially when it has the production values and stellar casting that this La Mirada Theater presentation boasts.

Review: Sally Struthers and Company Revive Mel Brooks' YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN to Glorious Life in La Mirada
Maggie Ek, A.J. Holmes and Wesley Slade. Jason Niedle.

The show’s main baiting strategy is its reverent handling of its cinematic source material’s many memorable (and often quoteable) scenes, which are then recreated for the stage. They will be a joy to those who are looking for the iconic scenes from the movie, such as the candle on the shelf, the sound of hypnotically mysterious instruments, and even the blind man in the woods.

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A movie adaptation is incomplete without a staging of “Puttin’ On The Ritz,”This makes it a more complete musical production number. “spoilers”For the show).

Nostalgia aside, for those without a history of seeing the movie that inspired it, they will be met with a musical overflowing with randy naughtiness, vaudevillian-inspired musical numbers crossed with belly-laugh inducing “ballads,”The show is filled with wall-to–wall humor delivered by a stellar cast of actors who are determined to make everyone laugh like crazy. While some humor is a bit old-fashioned, the absurdity is so universal that laughter is inevitable (though it may not be for all ages). “get”It may all be a good thing. haha).

Similar to the film, the stage adaptation follows the same storyline. Dr. Frederick Frankenstein is a well-known brain scientist. (Here played by A.J. Holmes) discovers that Dr. Frederick Frankenstein is notoriously eccentric “mad scientist”Recently, Dr. Victor Von Frankenstein, the grandfather, has passed away. He left a castle and its contents to the younger Frankenstein. It is located in Transylvania Heights, a small European village.

Long embarrassed by his family’s less than flattering reputation, Frederick—currently the Dean of Anatomy Studies at New York’s Johns, Miriam, and Anthony Hopkins School of Medicine—always insists that his last name be pronounced “Fronk-Ehn-Steeeen”So as to avoid any connection between Victor and his crazy relatives.

Unfortunately, in order to clear up any issues with this inheritance, Frederick must now travel to Transylvania in person, with the hopes of tying up these loose ends quickly followed by a swift exit back to his more respectable life in America, where his touch-averse fiancée Elizabeth (ham-tastic Sarah Wolter) awaits his return.

Review: Sally Struthers and Company Revive Mel Brooks' YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN to Glorious Life in La Mirada
A.J. Holmes (center) with his company. Jason Niedle.

Frederick is met by Igor, the strange-looking stranger (the very funny Wesley Slade), upon his arrival at Transylvanian’s train station. He is the oddly creepy, humpbacked grandson and henchman of Victor. Frederick clearly does not want to be associated with his grandfather’s grandchildren. “family business,”Frederick’s henchman is Igor. If Victor leaves, Igor will be there to help him. Inga (Maggie Ek), a charming Swede, is looking to hire an assistant. Her credentials are just as attractive as her beautiful beauty.

After a while, um, bouncy hayride up to the Frankenstein estate, Frederick meets the mysteriously unsettling castle caretaker Frau Blücher, played by the hilariously scene-stealing Sally Struthers (of All in the Family Gilmore Girls fame). Frederick soon discovers his grandfather’s secret lab and the potentially groundbreaking work he performed there. It seems that Frederick is indeed very close to the truth. “mad,” but after further inspection, seems highly revolutionary—particularly in his work with dead brain tissue.

The story is familiar to all, but even more so to those who are not. Frederick’s ad-hoc team manages, with the help of, to revive a giant green-skinned corpse (Trent Mills). uhRather than producing eloquent results, he further raised his family’s animosity towards the already angry villagersfolk, becoming weary of another Frankenstein in their midst.

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La Mirada’s YOUNG FRANCENSTEIN is a great production of this hilarious musical comedy. It is directed by Jeff Whiting and features a slick, make-em-laugh direction. showThis version flows and tracks so much better for me than the original, which was filled with lots of fluff that does little to advance the story (or comedy).

Review: Sally Struthers and Company Revive Mel Brooks' YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN to Glorious Life in La Mirada
The YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN is performed by La Mirada Theatre.
Photo by Jason Niedle

This revised version introduces the main character to the audience right away. It propels the story forward rather than starting with a production that only expands a minor plot point. This can be done with just a few lines of dialogue or lyrics (which is, ha!It does in this version.

If you’ve seen the musical before you won’t be missing the opening song. Nor will you miss the second song, which finds Frankensteins ghosts haunting Frederick to take up the throne. “family business”Frederick, reading his grandfather’s medical notes later in Act 1, does an equally good job in a shorter time.

Although we miss out on some amazing ensemble dancing and the visual theatre treats that go with them with deep cuts, the hilarious performances of the main cast (and how fast we get there to them) are what the audience came to see. This revised version does a great task of getting the audience to all important (and hilarious!) narrative milestones in an efficient manner. It also allows its players to really have fun with their characters.

They do!

La Mirada’s latest production –as this hilarious showThis is what the law requires. It relies heavily upon a comedically-blessed group that can really unabashedly dive right into the outrageous material with gusto.

Holmes is the title character. I fondly remember him from THE BOOK OF MORON tour. Holmes is perfectly cast in a character that requires some smarmy smarts, self-confidence mixed with judgmental snarkiness and self-effacing silliness. He also has a great vocal range that he doesn’t need to use. showHis peers or outdo them. Slade, his reliably funny Igor, makes for a fun comedy duo. Holmes’ Frederick, on the other hand, is a quirky sidekick.

Review: Sally Struthers and Company Revive Mel Brooks' YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN to Glorious Life in La Mirada
A.J. Holmes and Wesley Slade. Jason Niedle.

The tightly-wound master and bumbling, uncoordinated henchman pairing is so good, it sometimes causes Inga, Ek’s poor, to fade a little in the background of some scenes. But, thankfully, when she steps forward to flirt with Frederick, or gets her seductive flirt on, she proves to have divine qualities all her own. Frederick’s paramour Elizabeth, played with unmistakable ferocity and Wolter, is a diva with all the right moves. We happily take every crumb she leaves behind and she chews on the scenery.

In the program, a loose flyleaf notes that Inspector Kemp and (later) the Act 2 roles were mentioned. “Hermit”Gregory North plays both of these roles, at least on Opening Night. He is a standout in both roles, particularly in the latter, which highlights Brooks’ penchant for silly sight gags. The London revision significantly reduces Inspector Kemp’s role, which, while giving the actor less stage time, is a good edit for YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN. The character’s accented and incomprehensible accent has been a nuisance in its original form. It is difficult for the audience to understand the character’s intentionally garbled lines. Here, the character, though still at times absent-minded, is instead a much more commanding leader for the villagers, rather than just another cliché bumbling authority figure.

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Mills, the Monster that rises out of the dead, is a powerful, intimidating presence. However, he also shows a soft, vulnerable side that assures the audience that he’s not to be afraid. The movie’s iconic scene featuring him was filmed in full production. “Puttin’ On The Ritz”It is charming (if not even more so) on the stage.

Last but not least, I never imagined that I would ever see my dear Babette. Gilmore GirlsYou can transform into a horny, erratically unstable, and heavily-accented castle caretaker/secret love but I couldn’t have been more pleased. While Struthers is the Emmy Award Winner, she still wins it as a hard-working supporting actor, making every appearance a hilarious display of comedy gold. Seriously, her turn as Frau Blücher in this production is a true triumph, earning the loudest, longest laughs of the showThis makes it a compelling reason to buy tickets.

This YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN production has a cast and an amazing ensemble. It also boasts sets with deceptively impressive grandeur (based upon Robin Wagner’s original scenic designs). They were created for a regional production and have been visually enhanced through Jared A Sayeg’s striking lights (and lightning haha) designEric S. Elias’ amazing pyrotechnics that make (literally) pop!

The showErika Senase, Maggie Hofmann designed the colorful costumes. They combine vintage chic with modern threads. showA mysterious timelessness. I was also delighted with the orchestral music performed by Benet Braun, La Mirada’s music director. The sound system at La Mirada is still one of the best in the area. Also, the energetic, fun dance numbers choreographed and choreographed a James Gray were great. Overall, the production is a triumph on all fronts.

My first encounter with the original stage iteration YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN was in the showThe Pantages Theater in Hollywood was the first stop on the national tour. It also transferred to the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa in 2010. Original cast members Roger Bart and Corey English reprised the roles that they played on Broadway. Even then, the showIts silly, comedic skills as a stage musical proved to be a success, with many funny songs and a lot of meta, tongue in cheek humor.

Review: Sally Struthers and Company Revive Mel Brooks' YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN to Glorious Life in La Mirada
The company of La Mirada Theatre’s YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN.
Photo by Jason Niedle

Young Frankenstein is still a thrilling treat that should not be missed at the La Mirada Theater for the Performing Arts. You will have a lot of fun!

Follow this reviewer on twitter: @cre8iveMLQ.

Photos by Jason Niedle courtesy La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts.

The McCoy Rigby Entertainment’s presentation of Mel Brooks’ YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN will continue at The La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts until Sunday, October 9, 2020. The theater can be found at 14900 La Mirada Boulevard, La Mirada. Parking is free. Tickets available at www.tickets.com www.LaMiradaTheatre.comCall (562) 944-9801, (714) 994-6310.

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