Shelley’s Frankenstein is a delicate story that explores what it means to be human; this musical version by Mel Brooks, not so much – but it is bloody good fun.
Young Frankenstein sees the fabled dead-raising doctor’s grandson, played by Joseph Betts, summoned to his ancestral castle in Transylvania (despite Shelley’s character never making it there), where he is tempted to stay by his saucy new assistant Inga (Emily Sidnell), deranged stooge Igor (James Bell), and housekeeper Frau Blücher (Rowena Croston-Clegg).
He leaves behind his teasingly chaste fiancée Elizabeth (Rebecca Jillings), to raise a fresh monster from the grave, played by Ben Woodward, who terrifies the local villagers led by Inspector Hans Kemp (Leo Oakley) but befriends the blind Harold the Hermit (Zac Sowter).
The piece, based on Brooks’ film of the same name, spoofs horror movie tropes and it does it with joy and panache. This is a riotously silly and funny show, with great performances from an all-round strong cast, who effervesce infectiously.
Bett brings a frenetic energy to the stage as Frankenstein, but he is matched by Bell’s manic Igor, with his roving hump and comic asides – a real fool’s fool. Sidnell raises her role above its eye candy origins, and Jilling’s entitled Elizbeth is electrifyingly narcissistic (which with her voice, is deserved). At the opposite end is Sowter as the hermit, whose deadpan delivery could not be more contrasting but is just as devastatingly funny.
The twelve-strong ensemble offer great support, rising to the challenge of Dan Elliot’s choreography under the guidance of director Dan Smith. It all comes breathtakingly together in the central comic number, Puttin’ On The Ritz, which is as surreal as it is side-splitting. Woodward, as the monster, really is alive here, with a masterful performance.
The Playhouse backstage is challengingly small for a big production but the Threshold Theatre Company crew mostly keep the pace going, keeping the focus on the great performances on stage and making this horror parody a delight to watch.
- Young Frankenstein continues at Norwich Theatre Playhouse until Saturday, 3 June 2023.