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Review: ‘Young Frankenstein’ a monster hit at Timber Lake Playhouse

Published: Monday, July 7, 2014 1:15 a.m. CDT

MOUNT CARROLL – Timber Lake Playhouse opened “Young Frankenstein, The New Mel Brooks Musical” Thursday evening as a special area premiere. Originally written by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan, the show is a stage adaptation of the 1974 film directed by Brooks and Gene Wilder.

It marks the third production of this season, bringing TLP audiences a dizzying array of energy, professionalism and quality theater.

This TLP offering of “Young Frankenstein” is a perfect storm of parody-style hysteria, outstanding direction, and extraordinary talent. Brooks, of course, is a genre by himself as one of few EGOT recipients – that is, Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony awards.

Among his many parodies are “Blazing Saddles,” “High Anxiety” and “Robin Hood: Men in Tights.” The very titles point toward farcical hilarity. His “The Producers” also became a musical stage adaptation in 2001.

Special guest director of this show was Brad Lyons, no stranger to TLP with his 12 years as artistic director. Among his many direction successes are “Ragtime,” “Cabaret” and “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” honored by the National Endowment for the Arts for Artistic Excellence. Lyons was right at home with “Young Frankenstein” and brought out the best the script could offer.

This stellar cast has it all with talent and chemistry to unfold the fast-paced mix of song and dance. Returning TLP favorite Cody Jolly commands the character of Frankenstein (properly pronounced, for this telling, as Fronk-en-steen) with his many versatile gifts. His vocal abilities achieve heights all over the score, from hysteria to romance with frenzied accents and madness in between, much like his role as Scottish hitman in “Unnecessary Farce” last season. He assumes character roles in a Dick Van Dyke manner, rubberized at a moment’s notice. Jolly has much promise in his future as consummate role player. After all, Van Dyke still works in his late 80s.

No less a quality performance to offer was co-star Matt Webb as Igor (properly pronounced here as Eye-gor), whose hump magically changes locations as noted by “Fronkensteen” in serious moments.

Lexie Plath, as attractive lab assistant Inga, proves her versatility as mistress of silliness in the first act, “Roll in Ze Hay,” then romantic, “Listen to Your Heart,” in the second act.

Allison Hunt as fiancée Elizabeth, with “Please Don’t Touch Me,” then later her song of “Deep Love,” strikes a comical chord as fireworks accompany her sudden passion for the monster.

Blake Price as the green-faced monster is appropriately robotic, then transformed into slick. Analisha Santini as Frau Blucher milks the role for all it is worth with gestures, stiff shoulders and ridiculousness.

Grant Brown as Inspector Kemp is fresh from his last TLP role as inspector in “An Inspector Calls.” He is perfectly cast as a generic shady character, and in this production he explores beyond it as a blind hermit tripping and throwing himself all over the set for hilarious effect.

No less important to this must-see show were Christian Chambers, Nathan Goodrich, Gabriel Brown, Bethany Fay, Jessica Palkovic, Anastasia Arnold, Caroline Murrah – an ensemble array of villagers – and choreographer Cameron Turner, whose moves are marvelous in ”Please Don’t Touch Me” and Irving Berlin’s, “Puttin’ on the Ritz.”

Everything possible comes together in this show, and you might want to see it twice. (Some scenes are slightly suggestive, but glossed over because of the comedic effect.)

“Young Frankenstein, The New Mel Brooks Musical,” a show that makes you jump to your feet before the final curtain, runs through Sunday at Timber Lake Playhouse, 8215 Black Oak Road, in the boonies of Mount Carroll. All evening performances begin at 7:30 (no show today), with 2 p.m. matinees Wednesday and Sunday. Group ticket rates are available. Contact the box office at (815) 244-2035 or visit www.timberlakeplayhouse.org for more information.

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