Time to put on the ritz and laugh with ‘Young Frankenstein’

By MIKE CHAIKEN
EDITIONS EDITOR

Tighten up your neckbolts, grab your top hat and cane, and get ready to put on the ritz… Connecticut Theatre Company is staging “Young Frankenstein” the musical this month.
The stage show was created by Mel Brooks and is based on the 1974 movie, which starred Gene Wilder, Marty Feldman, Teri Garr, and Peter Boyle. The parody of the classic horror films of the 1930s is the tale of a descendant of THE Dr. Frankenstein, who follows in the footsteps of his famous ancestor by building a monster from assorted body parts. Humor blooms when chaos ensues.
And humor is key to any Mel Brooks creation.
“What don’t I like (about the humor)…?” said Johanna Regan, who plays Inga in the CTC production. “I grew up on Mel Brook movies. My father introduced them to me when I was young. So this type of humor is my forte. I adore it. I love adult humor. I love sexual humor. I love just everything about it. I can’t pick out specifics. It’s just so over the top. It’s completely ridiculous. I absolutely adore it.”
Kristi Yurko, who plays a telegraph girl, is one of the youngest cast members. She said, “It’s hilarious. It’s probably one of the funniest shows I’ve ever seen, especially with this cast.”
David Nunner, who plays the henchman Igor, said, “I love that (‘Young Frankenstein’) always rides on the risqué mark without going all the way. It doesn’t go straight to the dirty… It opens the ability to take the character to different levels and make it even funnier… A kid can still hear it, not understand it, but can still laugh based on the facial expressions and body movements we do. Adults can hear it and can go a whole different place.”
Johnny Revicki, who plays the monster, had not seen the movie in a number of years but was able to catch it again when CTC screened it around Halloween. “It was nice to see all of the old jokes and the cameos, and sexual innuendo.”
After seeing the film, Johnny said he went back to review the stage show script and the sheet music for the show. Johnny said he was impressed by “how much of the film actually does make it into the show… A lot of the big jokes are still there. And sometimes they take the jokes even further. That’s been a lot of fun.”
Tullio Milani, who plays Dr. Frederick Frankenstein, said it made sense for Brooks to retool “Young Frankenstein” as a musical.
“When you watch the movie, you can tell he (Brooks) wanted to put more songs into it…,” said Tullio. “The adaptation is phenomenal. It’s like you’re watching the movie- but the original movie on steroids and what it could have been if you have added music.”
“The music for this is very catchy,” said Johanna. “You leave humming tunes. I will probably will never get the songs out of my head.”
That said, Johanna explained, the music is “surprisingly difficult to learn.”
Johnny said, “The music is all another joke (in the show)… A lot of music is derivative and some of it is referencing other shows.”
David said, “To me I like (the music) because it’s quirky…You’re going to hear songs that seem like they’re not quite right. But they fit the mood or scene itself… It’s so unique.”
But, of course, despite the new tunes brought into the show by Brooks. The cast members said the classic “Putting on the Ritz” is still one of the story’s showstoppers.
Kristi said she liked some of dimensions that CTC has brought to its production of “Young Frankenstein. “The costumes, they bring out the characters even more.” Kristi also said she liked the sets for the show. “The people who paint the sets put in a lot of time and effort into it. And it pays off.”
David said, “For being a small community theater, (this production) feels better than some paid gigs. They don’t spare expense on sets, costumes, or make up. They give us the freedom developing the roles how we want to (within some guidelines)… It’s a lot of collaboration of everybody’s ideas.”
“It’s a small community theater,” said Tullio, but, “It’s a small theater with huge potential and dreams.”
“You should see ‘Young Frankenstein’ because it’s hilarious,” said Kristi. “It’s phenomenal. And the music brings the story more to life than the original movie.”
“Young Frankenstein” is co-directed by Susan Smith Thom and Duane Campbell for Connecticut Theatre Company. Performances run until Oct.18 at on Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. at The Repertory Theatre in New Britain, 23 Norden St., New Britain. Tickets are general admission and are $25 for adults and $23 for seniors.
Tickets can be purchased in advance at www.connecticuttheatrecompany.org or bought at the door the night of the performance.

PHOTOS by MIKE CHAIKEN

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