A good brain — from a very smart person who just died — is a terrible thing to waste. Such is the case in The New Mel Brooks Musical Young Frankenstein at Rivertown Theaters for the Performing Arts. Based on the popular 1974 Mel Brooks comedy Young Frankenstein, the musical is high-spirited, with enough laughs to wake the dead.
Dr. Frankenstein travels to Transylvania because he is the executor of the will of his grandfather, the original monster-building Dr. Frankenstein. When he first leaves his fiancee Elizabeth Benning (Hannah Rachel) in New York City, the young Dr. Frankenstein has no plans to go into the family business of raising the dead, but things change when he reaches his grandfather's stomping grounds and meets the hunched-over Igor (Mason Wood).
As Dr. Frankenstein, Gary Rucker is very charming. He does not have the strongest voice in the cast, but his presence and acting are worthy of the leading role. Young Frankenstein is a show with a great number of jokes and innuendos, many of them sexual in nature. The pacing is quick, and the main characters all are given moments to shine. In one instance, Igor is tasked with obtaining a "smart" brain, which he does but then drops it. He steps on the "smart" brain a few times and then goes back and mistakenly procures an abnormal brain. Dr. Frankenstein unwittingly uses the abnormal brain and, with a few more missteps along the way, he gives life to The Monster (Jeffrey Springmann).
In the midst of trying to make The Monster more human, Dr. Frankenstein starts an affair with his lab assistant Inga (Elise Harvey). Later, his fiancee arrives in Transylvania and, realizing she's been replaced, delivers some show-stopping moments. Her character is funny and wants to be the center of attention. Rachel's comedic timing is great and she sings well. Frau Bluecher (Tracey Collins) has a tough-but-friendly exterior that makes her deadpan delivery entertaining to watch.
Choreographed by Karen Hebert, the musical numbers are energetic and fun. There's a big dance number to "Puttin' on the Ritz" that features The Monster — he's a lovable creature, but the Transylvanians are set on catching him. Although it does not end well for him, the "Ritz" number gives The Monster a chance to make friends. The singing and dancing in this number, along with others about brains and boyfriends, are top-notch.
The detailed set features a rotating bookcase with a secret passage and intricate wall designs, as well as impressive staging. It's well worth the trip to Rivertown Theaters for this rousing production. — TYLER GILLESPIE