WOODBURY, Minn. — I am always skeptical when a movie or book that I love is transformed into a play or musical; how could the original be topped?
This is what I was thinking when I learned that Merrill Arts Center was going to stage the musical version of “Young Frankenstein,” one of Mel Brooks’ best movies.
The fear was unwarranted.
The Woodbury cast of “Young Frankenstein” is fairly small, about 17 actors, but it puts on a powerful show.
The musical follows Frederick Von Frankenstein (Ben Habegger). Frankenstein, the grandson of the infamous Dr. Frankenstein is forced to leave his job as a professor to settle his inheritance and property in Transylvania when he received news of his grandfather's death.
Until staying in his grandfather’s castle, Frankenstein was convinced that there was no way for a human to raise something from the dead. But, with some help from local assistants and the discovery of his grandfather’s books, he decides to try, and succeeds, to breathe life into a corpse. What would a show about a Frankenstein be without a monster, after all?
In order to tell this story, numerous sets and props are required: a classroom, the exterior of the castle, rooms in the castle, the ocean liner that Frankenstein took to Transylvania, etc. The sets themselves are worth seeing the show as they are simple but beautifully crafted and thought-out. The use of space is lovely.
The script, soundtrack and sets are all wonderful but, like most productions, it is the actors who make the show.
The ensemble members play a variety of different roles, everything from medical students to Transylvania villagers, a ship captain to horses. This “where’s Waldo” of characters is a fun part of the viewing experience.
The named characters are all very talented. Kimberly Crabb (Inga) and Anna Werner (Frau Blucher) offer especially impressive performances as they speak and sing in thick German accents during the entirety of the show. Luke Fowler is a fabulous monster and Ben Habegger is a great Frederick Von Frankenstein; Gene Wilder would be proud of the performance. Timothy Kelly who plays Igor is astonishing.
Kelly doesn’t slip out of character for a moment on stage. His walk, voice, facial expressions and movements are fabulous. And, he does all of this while crouched over with a hump on his back.
This show is fun and worth seeing but know before bringing the whole family that it has a PG-13 rating, due mostly to suggestive and some explicit sexual language. Also, if you’re not familiar with the story of Frankenstein, there will be a green monster running around.
If you go ...
Where: The Loft Stage in East Ridge High School
When: 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, Feb. 7-8 and Feb. 14-15; 2 p.m. Sundays, Feb. 9 and 16.
Cost: $8 for children 3-6, $16 for those under 30, $18 for seniors, $22 for adults.
More information: merrillartscenter.org or call 612-399-6568.