Evansville Civic Theatre Succeeds with Monstrous Production of Young Frankenstein: the Musical (REVIEW)
The season opener is a monster of a good time!
The 92nd season of the Evansville Civic Theatre kicked off this month, with their production of Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein: the Musical. The musical is based on the iconic Gene Wilder film and the adaptation was created by Brooks and collaborator, Thomas Meehan. How does the musical compare to the film and how did the Civic's version turn out?
The musical follows the same beats as the film, but everything is turned way up in terms of acting, and of course, the music that accompanies the show. Throwaway lines from the movie (Roll in 'ze hay) are turned into full-fledged songs to hilarious results. As someone who isn't a huge fan of the film or Gene Wilder (I know, I know), I was hesitant to whether I'd enjoy this, but I walked away having a fantastic time.
A lot of my enjoyment came from that cast that director Kevin Roach assembled. Alexander Hellenberg was a great choice to play Frederick Frankenstein. He's been a stand out background player in previous Civic productions, but here, his full range of talent was displayed. Not only does he leave the audiences laughing, he delights them with his amazing voice and wide range. He brought a lot of charm to the character and infused every scene with unparalleled gusto. He's truly a treat.
His supporting cast also had several breakout performances, including Chynna Hall (in her 4th Civic show in the past year) as Inga. Chynna had never yodeled before this performance, but you'd never be able to tell. In the aforementioned "Roll in 'Ze Hay" number, she not only yodels but also manages to have one of the funniest scenes in the entire show.
Lindsay Tieken as Frau, the former housekeeper for Victor Frankenstein, threw herself all over the stage in a memorable performance. I also would be doing a disservice to not mention the incredible talent of Kurt McWilliams' rendition of the Monster. For a role that you would think would just be a bunch of gutteral noises, Kurt gives a wonderful performance through his movements and reaction to things. Kate Grimm as Elizabeth was definitely the most dynamic singer in the cast. I would not be surprised if the notes she belted out weren't heard by people two blocks over. She has a very powerful voice that was utilized impressively for the show.
With all of that said, there is a true MVP of the show and that is Drew Duvall as Igor. His comedic timing was spot-on and he was the source of so many laughs. This is the first production I've seen Drew in and I look forward to many more. If he brings this amount of talent to every role, then everyone should take note.
The ensemble cast complimented the show as well, with several of them (such as Matt Hummell) pulling double-duty with larger parts throughout the show. Also shout-out to the cast for learning a complicated tap-dance number, which brings me to my next point: The choreography and set design for this show is the most complex I've seen the Civic Theatre pull off. I loved how they designed the castle and how they multi-purposed so many set pieces for different scenes. This demonstrates the genius that is set-designer Charles Julius.
As for the choreography, it was incredible. The joint effort between Kiley Eberhard and Carrie McKendree was a feast for the eyes and we all went back for seconds. I lose my mind over a great tap-dance routine, and the one choreographed by Kiley during "Puttin' on the Ritz" was my favorite number during the show. The choreography was one of the high points of the show for me.
I'm sure the show has flaws, but honestly, I couldn't find any. I want to be objective in my critique of the show, but honestly, from top-to-bottom, this was the tightest production the Civic (in my history of seeing shows) has done. I'm also happy to report that, unlike during scenes in The Wedding Singer: the Musical, the orchestra never drowned out the actors singing. Kudos for that adjustment.
As someone who didn't love the movie, Young Frankenstein: the Musical made me a fan. This show brought all of my favorite parts of musical theatre together and will be a show I talk about for years to come!
If you want to see Young Frankenstein, this is the last weekend to do so. They have performances tonight (25th) at 7:30, tomorrow night (26th) at 7:30, and a final performance on Sunday (27th) at 2pm. You can reserve tickets by calling the box office at (812) 425-2800.