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Monday, 28 October 2013 18:50

Over Due's 'Young Frankenstein': a dearth of funding and a plethora of talent.

Written by Steve Callahan
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Well, with Mel Brooks you get Mel Brooks.  The Over Due Theatre Company has opened a production of Brooks' musical adaption of his own wacky spoof movie, "Young Frankenstein."   (Oops!  Make that "Young Frankensteen".)

Brooks is a major and enduring talent who combines arrested development with true comic genius.  As with his other hit musical, "The Producers," for "Young Frankenstein" Brooks wrote the book, music, and lyrics.  And even more than in "The Producers" this show is chock full of really dumb fifth-grade sex jokes.  And of course the prominent presence of a bosomy blonde bimbo is de rigueur.  Several of the female characters seem afflicted with—well, not exactly nymphomania;  let's just say a kind of phallo-philia.  But it's all done with such high spirits, such boisterous zest that we find ourselves laughing even more than we groan.

Then there's that flash of brilliant comic inspiration when Dr. Frankenstein and his Monster step into the supple tap-shoes of Fred Astaire to perform the most memorable version of "Puttin' on the Ritz" you will ever see.  To me this is, perhaps, the zenith in the comic history of the world.  It is so, so outrageously funny!

As usual with Over Due this production seems to have a dearth of funding and a plethora of talent.

The handsome Sean Green plays Dr. Frankenstein with immense vitality and comic flair.  The Monster, played by Maxwell Knocke, is properly lurchy, clompy and scary, but he also has a twinkle and charm and at times he's quite adorable.  Nicole Orr and Carrie Priesmeyer are the ladies in the doctor's life; they're lusty and voluptuous and they sing beautifully.  Miss Priesmeyer is the ice-queen fiancée who has a melt-down in the arms of the Monster.  Miss Orr, is Inga, a sort of über St. Pauli Girl who yodels impressively.  Marion Holtz (who seems never to age) is always a delight on stage; she makes a stern and obsessive Frau Blucher.  And Wayne Mackenberg brings his considerable comic sense to the role of Inspector Kemp, the leader of the townspeople.  And then there's Igor (oops!  Make that "Eye-gor"), the doctor's hunch-back assistant whose hump curiously migrates.  Here John Wolbers really steals the show.  (Would he be insulted if I say that he was born to play Igor?)  Seeming longer-limbed and longer-faced than ever, Wolbers brings deeply professional comic gifts to this role.

Kudos to director Rachel Young for her success with this very challenging comic delight.

Set and costumes are (within the constraints of the venue and the budget) most impressive.  The meager lighting equipment at Over Due is still a limitation:  the "zapping-to-life" of the Monster just needs lots more pizazz.  (And a few bubbling retorts and alembics wouldn't hurt anything.)

Mel Brooks' music is nothing you'll go home whistling, and his lyrics are a long stretch below Cole Porter, but all-in-all the Over Due Theatre's "Young Frankenstein" is a barrel of fun.  It's now on stage at the Olivette Community Center and plays through November 3rd.

For information go to OverdueTheatreCompany.com.

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