It’s a No-Brainer! Young Frankenstein is a Phenomenal Halloween Treat
By: Iris Wiener
October 29, 2023: It doesn’t get better than a comedic musical by Mel Brooks, but one that serves as much hilarity and creativity as CM Performing Art Center’s Young Frankenstein exceeds all bounds. Now running through November 5th in Oakdale, Long Island, the astounding production is so stunningly imaginative that it feels like a short step away from Broadway.
Grandson of the infamous Victor Frankenstein, Frederick Frankenstein (Kevin Shaw) inherits his family’s estate in Transylvania. The cast of characters of lore appear in farcical grandiosity, beginning with his hunchbacked sidekick, Igor (Andrew Murano) and his bosomy lab assistant Inga (Courtney O’Shea). Frederick soon finds himself reliving his ancestors’ days as a mad scientist, as he brings a creature to life that is more horrific than the one created by his grandfather. The scariest aspect of the monster’s escape is how easily the laughter rolls as new hijinks ensue.
Jordan Hue’s direction is nuanced, perfectly encapsulating the vaudevillian action with its complexity of moving parts. Perhaps his greatest feat was his casting, as he found performers to bring the show to life with as much pizzazz and grandiosity as the monster’s rising. Kevin Shaw’s Frederick Frankenstein (it’s “Franken-steen,” and don’t you forget it) delivers the speediest, punctuated delivery of lyrics in “The Brain;” his performance continues to amaze whether the actor is navigating one-liners, sight gags, or mind-blowing choreography.
Murano’s Igor (pronounced Eye-gore) is a character actor for the ages, fully embodying his traveling hump, roving saucer eyes, and glorious penchant for always being in the wrong place at the right time. Another Frankenstein standout is Erica Giglio-Pac, an exceptional performer for whom the role of Frau Blucher seems to have been written. Her brilliant, seismic rendition of “He Vas My Boyfriend” epitomizes musical comedy in its greatest form. (Cue the neighing horses.)
Props also go to Thomas H. Anderson’s monster, as he excels at stepping his way through choreographer Melissa Rapelje’s staggering, full-blown jazz number “Puttin’ on the Ritz” in sky-high platforms. Some of the most fun moments come from characters with less stage time- but with giant zingers to make up for it. Audiences won’t soon forget Richard O’ Sullivan’s Hermit and his appeal to “Please Send Me Someone,” nor are they likely to keep from cackling at the gags from Patrick Campbell’s bumblingly brazen village idiot. Frankenstein’s ensemble is filled with performers giving the show their whole hearts…and brains. Their enthusiasm and stellar talent explodes from the stage, also thanks in part to Rapelje, whose choreography is expeditious and considerate of Brooks’ story, while vamping up the fiery anticipation that makes the musical so magical.
John Mazzarella’s scenic design is exceptional, from sinuous forests to the realistic stone work in a castle complete with a dungeon and hidden passages. The actors’ interactions with the set and the way it has been incorporated into the zany, dark world, is outstanding to witness. (Don’t miss the frenetic frustration of the motley crew as the monster’s form rises on a platform high above the stage.) Coupled with Christopher Creevy’s thoughtfully dark, misty lighting, and Ronald R. Green III’s unforgettable costumes (The reveal of Frau Blucher’s brilliant bustier is one of many that sticks with you for a giggle), the design features some of the best in regional theatre.
To order tickets for Young Frankenstein or for more information about the show, call the box office at (631) 218-2810 or visit www.cmpac.com.
Photography: Lisa Schindler