Little Theatre brings 'Young Frankenstein' to life - Scott Liven

Little Theatre brings ‘Young Frankenstein’ to life

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Halloween is behind us, but the spooky season continues with the Little Theatre of Winston-Salem’s rollicking performance of “Young Frankenstein: The Mel Brooks Musical.” The play, being performed this weekend and next, takes the story of Brooks’ 1974 film and adapts it into a full-blown musical, with the mix of clever, subversive gags and slapstick people expect from him.

Brooks has long incorporated music into his movies, and has successfully expanded on that with two Broadway adaptations, first “The Producers” in 2001 and then “Young Frankenstein” in 2007.

The plot of the musical “Young Frankenstein” stays largely faithful to the 1974 film, hitting on most all of the beloved scenes and catchphrases from the original. Frederick Frankenstein (played here by Lane Fields, the executive director of the Little Theatre), who insists on pronouncing his name “Fronk-un-steen,” returns to his ancestral home in Transylvania after his grandfather, who was infamous for creating an undead monster, dies.

There, Frederick meets Igor (Seph Schonekas), the droll, subversive grandson of the original Frankenstein’s minion; Inga (Kayla Guffey), a sexy, exuberant lab assistant who tempts Frederick to stray from his fiancee; and Frau Blucher (Neigh!), the stern housekeeper of the Frankenstein castle, played here by Katie Jo Icenhower.

Frederick finds his grandfather’s notes and, overcome with scientific curiosity, creates a monster (Matthew Cravey) that proves hard to control thanks to Igor’s accidentally retrieving an abnormal brain from a lab. Adding to the complications are the local village’s Inspector Kemp (Michael Burke) and a mob of angry villagers, including village idiot Ziggy (Jeffrey Payton), and the unexpected arrival of Frederick’s snobbish fiancee Elizabeth (Amber Engel).

Musical motifs from the original film are recreated, including the melancholic violin music used to lure Frederick to the hidden lab and a playful rendition of Irving Berlin’s classic “Puttin’ on the Ritz.” Brooks expands the song list dramatically, with almost every scene built around a comical song-and-dance number, some delivered at a dizzying pace and most of them hysterically funny and very Mel Brooksian, if that’s a phrase (it should be).

It’s a giddy, gleeful production with several toe-tapping numbers, notably an expanded take on the “Puttin’ on the Ritz” number; the closing number of Act One, the bombastic “Transylvania Mania”; and bawdy songs for Inga and Elizabeth, respectively, “Roll in the Hay” and “Deep Love.”

The cast for the Little Theatre’s production is uniformly solid, interpreting the film versions of the characters while adding their own touches as well. They all seem to be having a great time playing their parts, with Schonekas and Icenhower proving nearly as adept at scene-stealing as Marty Feldman and Cloris Leachman were in the original film as Igor and Blucher (Neigh!). There isn’t a weak performance in the entire cast.

Also noteworthy is the ensemble cast, who deftly take on a wide variety of roles, from torch-bearing angry villagers to scientists to cruise line passengers, all with quick costume changes. And Jim McKeny does a terrific take on the lonely, blind hermit who befriends the mute Monster in one of the original film’s most memorable sequences.

The makeup and costume designs are spot-on, and the set is cleverly designed with rotating pieces to recreate various locales throughout the story.

The play includes some strobe effects and some raunchy gags of the “PG-13” variety.

About Scott Livengood

Scott Livengood is the owner and CEO of Dewey’s Bakery, Inc., a commercial wholesale bakery with a respected national brand of ultra premium cookies and crackers.

Previously, Scott worked at Krispy Kreme Doughnuts for 27 years, starting as a trainee in 1977. He was appointed President of the company in 1992, then CEO and Chairman of the Board.

Scott has served on numerous boards including the Carter Center, the Calloway School of Business and the Babcock School of Management, Habitat for Humanity of Forsyth County, and the Winston-Salem Chamber of Commerce.

He started a new business, StoryWork International, in 2016 with Richard Stone. The signature achievement to date is LivingStories, a story-based program for improved patient experiences and outcomes in partnership with Novant Health.