For those who have missed the news, “it’s alive” in Kenner! Yes, Mel Brooks' "Young Frankenstein" has made its regional premiere here and it may well be one of the best musical productions Rivertown Theaters for the Performing Arts has shown.
First of all, hat’s off to director Ricky Graham for working with the comic timing with the actors and agreeing with the producers to having a real orchestra into the pit in Kenner. Alan Payne is the musical director and conductor of the 12 musicians who sound like 20. This makes all the difference in bringing a musical comedy of this sort to the stage.
Also, on a technical highlight, David Raphael has created one of the best sets in memory on the Kenner stage The laboratory scene where the monster comes to life is enhanced because of his hard work and dedication.
As to the actors, Gary Rucker, who along with Kelly Fouchi also serves as the producer, stars as Dr. Frederick Frankenstein ("that's pronounced "Fronk-en-steen") and proves again he is a comic mastermind. Rucker's portrayal is evocative of the original film role played by Gene Wilder.
Meanchwhile, Mason Wood, as Igor ("that's pronounced Eye-gor"), is also incredibly funny and a wonderful foil to Rucker’s character. Elise Harvey as Inga is a superb singer with charms that are evident even when she's not rolling in the hay. As Elizabeth Benning, the doctor’s fiancée, Hannah Rachel is hilarious.
Playing the Monster, Jeffrey Springmann also settles into his role quite nicely - especially in the song "Puttin' on the Ritz" - and Butch Caire is fun in two roles as both the blind hermit and Inspector Hans Kemp.
But the big scene stealer is Tracey Collins as Frau Bleucher (cue the horse). There is no doubt she will be mentioned for her role for some time to come. Her comic timing is pure genius and her song "He Vas My Boyfriend" was absolutely priceless.
Another big shout out to Karen Hebert, who did an outstanding job of choreography. With other choreographers available like Heidi Malnar, Danielle Scheib, and others like Fouchi, it is hard to get work in Kenner. Hebert, however, proves she still has it!
While the music and songs are not as good as Mel Brooks' biggest musical hit “The Producers,” this is still very funny. This is a very satisfying romp with a tremendous ensemble cast that sings and dances its way into your hearts and other body parts. Scott Sauber's lighting design was top notch and Linda Fried's costumes earned high marks too. As always, Mike Harkins never disappoints in delivering superior sound design. It is suggested to not miss this electrifying show!
("Young Frankenstein" continues at Rivertown Theaters for the Performing Arts through May 25. For tickets, call 504-461-9675 or buy online here.)