• It’s Alive! – Mel Brooks ‘Young Frankenstein’
    September 25,2013

    By Mary Gow
    Arts Correspondent

    Listen to our tale of woe,
    a story we must tell.
    What happened in that castle made our lives a living hell!

    A mad man who was crazy
    brought a dead man back to life,
    who hurt and lamed
    and killed and maimed,
    our town was torn with strife!

    The villagers in the little town first imagined by Mary Shelley in 1818 are blissfully happy. Dr. Victor von Frankenstein, maker of monsters, is dead. Singing in the street, the townsfolk are all smiles, considering themselves “The Happiest Town in Town.” They are not even concerned — yet — that Doctor Frankenstein’s nephew, an anatomy professor at Johns, Miriam, and Anthony Hopkins School of Medicine, is heir to the estate.

    For the next three weekends, the young nephew – he prefers to be called Fronk-en-steen – and an assortment of his (and his uncle’s) associates and friends will be on stage in Waitsfield as the Valley Players present Mel Brooks’ musical, “Young Frankenstein.”

    “It’s got great music. It’s a fun show, lots of dancing,” said director Shannon Pitonyak. “It moves from beginning to end, there are no slow spots. And it’s campy.”

    “Young Frankenstein,” the musical, had its Broadway run from 2007 to 2009. The show is a close descendant of its namesake 1974 comedy film, one of Brooks’ classics. A spoof of 1930s-style horror movies, the black and white film is a high entry on many lists of funniest movies ever made. With Gene Wilder, Madeline Kahn, Cloris Leachman and others, it was packed with comedy stars and Brooks’ outrageous humor.

    “‘Blazing Saddles’ was his spoof of old westerns. They’re sort of in the same category,” said Susan Loynd, co-producer of the Valley Players production.

    “It very closely follows the movie, a lot of the songs start with lines directly from it,” said Pitonyak.

    In both versions, anatomy professor Frederick Frankenstein has always tried to distance himself from the family fame. He’s a scientist and doesn’t want “mad’ to be the describing adjective. Inheriting his uncle’s castle puts that to the test.

    After traveling to the Transylvanian estate, young Frankenstein discovers his uncle’s notes and also starts down the life-creating path. But — oops — his henchman Igor (pronounced Eye-gore) has a mishap acquiring a brain. And guess who makes his own monster?

    Monster-making has its risks — especially with Frederick’s fiancée, his assistant, a friend of the uncle’s and other quirky types in the mix.

    With some sexual innuendo — it is Mel Brooks after all – the show is probably a PG-13. Much will go over kids’ heads.

    As Brooks’ film “The Producers” made the transition from screen to stage with fun music and riotous lyrics, “Young Frankenstein” does the same. Brooks wrote the music and lyrics, except for one song. As with “The Producers,” he collaborated with Thomas Meehan of “Annie” fame on the book.

    “The music is a lot of different styles. There are swing numbers, ragtime, some barbershop is in there. ‘Putting on the Ritz’ by Irving Berlin was in the movie too, and has that traditional glamorous Hollywood style,” said Pitonyak.

    “We have a good sized band with horns, piano, and violin, which is really great for this show,” added Pitonyak.

    “Our cast is from a good chunk of central Vermont,” said Pitonyak. “Our lead is Todd Jones from Cabot; our monster, Dave DeRosia, is from Worcester; we have quite a few from the Mad River Valley,” said Pitonyak. “It’s a large cast — I think we have 19, including many who haven’t been in Valley Players before, who auditioned based on this show.”

    Pitonyak, who lives in Barre, is a Valley Players veteran director. Over the last few years, her productions at the community theater
    include “Avenue Q,” “Reefer Madness,” and “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.”

    “This is a great Halloween show,” said Pitonyak. “It’s the fall show that will set the tone for the season.”

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