Sunday, April 28, 2013

REVIEW: Young Frankenstein at The Empress Theatre

Young Frankenstein

The regional premiere of Mel Brook’s Young Frankenstein (pronounced Fronk-en-steen) debuted last Friday night at The Empress Theatre, and we were lucky enough to be able to attend the opening night performance. As with all other productions at The Empress, we absolutely loved it and want to tell all of our family and friends to go see it!

Young Frankenstein is the story
of the grandson of the infamous Dr. Frankenstein. He travels to Transylvania to attend to his grandfather’s estate after his father passes away. The town villagers are understandably concerned that Frederick will follow in his grandfather’s business in bringing the dead back to life, even though he insists he has no interest in “the family business”. He is only there to attend to put the estate in order, and be on his way.   

The live orchestra for this production was a great addition, and made it different than any other production at The Empress. It really added to the atmosphere of the storyline and the setting of Transylvania in 1934. The production wouldn’t have been the same without the live orchestra.

The original Mel Brooke’s Young Frankenstein movie was filmed in black and white, and the director of The Empress production, Clayton Cammack, did a great job creating this effect on stage by using the lights to create dark shadows, and bright and dark costumes. You feel like you are in a black and white movie.

Another favorite surprise we love when attending productions at The Empress is the way the set is designed, which is very different than many other live theatre venues in Utah. The entire theatre room is transformed into the set, and you feel like you are a part of the story, not just watching it from the sidelines. The stairways for Young Frankenstein are painted like an old Transylvanian castle, with flickering “candles” lighting the way.

The entire cast did a fabulous job with their roles.
Watching their facial expressions and mannerisms throughout the entire show, they never once broke character, even when dancing and singing.

A huge surprise in this cast was Jeff Erickson, who played the role of Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (pronounced Fronk-en-steen). I knew that I didn’t recognize him from any other productions at The Empress, and just assumed he had performed elsewhere. I was shocked to read the playbill and learn that Young Frankenstein was his theatrical debut. He played this role like a seasoned performer, and we look forward to seeing him in many more roles at The Empress! We loved watching him react with his sidekick, Igor, played by Michael Thrall, who also did a great job with his character.

Another new performer at The Empress is Kylee Ogzewalla, who played the part of Inga, Dr. Frankenstein’s “lab assistance”. She recently choreographed Anything Goes earlier this year, and Young Frankenstein is her first time performing as a character on The Empress stage. She has performed in close to forty productions all around the Midwest.

Our favorite characters
in this production were The Monster and Frau Blucher, played by the husband and wife team of Erik and Betsy Christianson. Dare I say that I enjoyed Erik’s performance of The Monster better than Peter Boyle in the original Young Frankenstein movie?! His performance in the familiar song and dance number “Puttin’ On The Ritz” was entertaining to watch, and had us laughing, even more so than the original movie! Betsy was hilarious with her mannerisms, facial expressions and delivery of lines, especially in the song “He Vas My Boyfriend.” My son’s favorite characters to watch were the horses. We loved hearing the horse whinny each time Frau Blucher’s name was said.

Because The Empress keeps the cost of their concessions low enough for a family to afford to have treats, we always buy drinks and candy when attending a performance.

Young Frankenstein is playing at The Empress Theatre now through May 18, 2013, on Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays. For show times and to purchase tickets, visit The Empress Theatre website.

A huge thanks to
The Empress Theatre for inviting us out to review another fantastic show!

Is this production appropriate for children?

This is a question I have been asked a few times since attending the performance. Parents must keep in mind that it is a Mel Brooks production, so it will have some adult humor and situations. Talks of “rolling in the hay” and “don’t touch me” are subjects that young children might question or might not understand. We brought our seven year old son and nine year old daughter to see it, and they loved it. I was not embarrassed to have them sitting next to me during this production, and it didn’t provide for much material that we haven’t already discussed with them. Parents can use their own judgment on what is appropriate for their own children.



More about The Empress and Young Frankenstein:

I was provided with two complimentary tickets to attend and review Young Frankenstein, and was not compensated financially for my review. The views and opinions in this review are all my own, and I was not persuaded to write any specific type of review.



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