‘Young Frankenstein’ was monstrous.
An epic night of theatre was had with Phoenix Ensemble’s latest rip-roaring comedy, ‘Young Frankenstein’. Offering an evening of adulterated fun, this new musical had it all, with its slapstick routines, gruesome gags and pant-splitting parodies.
Written by comedy legend, Mel Brooks, and the late Thomas Meehan, ‘Young Frankenstein’ is a goldmine for any theatre group. Based on Brooks’ 1974 film of the same name, the spoof musical follows a similar storyline. Leading professor of neurology, Frederick Frankenstein (Zach Price), is lured back to Transylvania after the death of his mad scientist grandfather. Embarrassed by his lineage, insisting his name is pronounced “Fronkensteen”, Frederick inherits his grandfather’s estate and consequently his line of work. Assisted by the hunchback, Igor (David McLaughlin), and the voluptuous, Inga (Vivien Wood), Frederick sets out to make a monster and bring the dead back to life.
For fans of Mel Brooks, there are some interesting and entertaining similarities across his works that clearly make a strong formula for guaranteed laughs. In all honesty, it is baffling as to why theatres haven’t undertaken the opportunity to perform this show. The script is witty, shrewd and can stand the test of time.
Director Shane Webb, ably assisted by Carly Skelton, has made some clever choices when crafting the flow of scenes. Opening the show, audiences were treated to old school horror film-clips, which pre-empted the tone of what was to come. The bits featured an array of monsters from notorious blockbusters and highlighted Phoenix Ensemble’s sophisticated branding, while also instilling monstrous levels of excitement.
When the lights went down, ‘Young Frankenstein’ rolled its own production credits and presented itself as a picture of the same calibre, ready to enthral.
Shane’s use of attention to detail allowed ‘Young Frankenstein’ to escalate to sublime heights. Adding his own humour to scenes, jokes were plentiful, and action was a riot on stage. It was clear the content was fun to perform, and the audience was onboard for this hilarious hay-ride.
Another beautiful element within ‘Young Frankenstein’ was how the Tin Shed felt grand in nature. Despite the performance space being on a smaller scale, the presentation felt larger than life. Every nook and cranny was used and the set rotated and unfolded like a Rubik’s Cube.
The on-point orchestra, led by energetic Musical Director Benjamin Tubb-Hearne, filled the space with stupendous sound and effects, which assisted an animated cast. There were several winning combinations that came together in this show, easily making it a success.
Among an array of talented performers, some notable actors stood out with their hilarious interpretations. Sure-fire audience favourite David McLaughlin, who played Igor, had precise comic timing. He was quirky, steadfast and the perfect sidekick.
Harley Coghlan was perfect as the Village Idiot, Ziggy. He had the wit of The Simpson’s ‘Üter Zörker’, the look of Shrek’s ‘Lord Farquaad’ and the flamboyancy of Rock of Ages’ ‘Franz’. Brendan Dieckmann was fascinating as The Monster. Playing a ‘mute’ role has a certain level of difficulty, but Brendan handled it with skill and humour. His performance of ‘Puttin’ On The Ritz’ was the highlight of the evening.
Zach Price, as Frederick Frankenstein, handled his role with finesse and Vivien Wood, as Inga, yodelled her way into the hearts of many. And then there was Fiona Buchanan who made for a hard but loveable Frau Blücher. The horses whinnying every time they heard her name was a great source of fun.
Just like any opening night, there were a few tech glitches and impromptu happenings, but they were only noticeable if you were looking. In fact, in the style of ‘Young Frankenstein’, these were easy to ignore as there were many crazy components throughout the story.
Phoenix Ensemble is a troupe to watch out for. Going from strength to strength, they’ve continuously proven they may be tiny in stature, but they’re large in presence. ‘Young Frankenstein’ is a testament to this. It’s a show you can see numerous times, without it getting old. Book yourself a ticket to Transylvania as soon as you can.
‘Young Frankenstein’ performs at Phoenix Ensemble until Saturday, 23 February 2019. For tickets, visit https://www.phoenixensemble.com.au/youngfrankenstein/.
Disclaimer: Cast / Production Members working on this show also work and have worked for Theatre Haus, but rest assured, we always take steps to ensure our reviews maintain their integrity and are free from bias.