Friday, October 4, 2013

Pit and Balcony's "Young Frankenstein" full of frightfully good fun

Lucy Malacos, Kevin Profitt, Christopher Dinnan and Christy Horn

review and photographsby janet i. martineau

Fair warning, mid-Michigan, if you slink out to see Pit and Balcony Community Theatre’s production of “Young Frankenstein -- the Musical,” visions of dancing the “Transylvania Mania” will swirl in your head from now through Halloween.

Forget about the famed “Monster Mash” song of my youth ... I am hooked on “Transylvania Mania.” It should catch on in a flash.

And Pit....well, methinks it has a box office smash with this Mel Brooks  concoction based on his 1974  campy movie of the same name (and which was  ranked No. 13 on AFI’s list of the 100 funniest American movies). 

Funny....oh my god is it funny with its one-liners, double-entendres, sexual innuendo and sight gags spoofing the movie monster genre and the Frankenstein novel. There is an ill-timed game of charades. A kick line danced sitting down. A revolving hidden door that catches the leading man smack in the face. A monster dancing the soft shoe. A bed that rises into the air with an amorous couple, um, rising in it. A hay ride with horses. Moving humps on Igor’s back.  We could go on.

And the choreography and general cast movement is TO DIE FOR... including, toward the end, an all-out tap dance routine filled with kids who have waited all evening for this one short number.

Dinnan, Malacos and Horn
We caught the final dress rehearsal on Thursday night (it opens tonight) and it was rife with some monstrous set change blunders, set change noise and lengthy scene changing. 

But once those issues settle down -- and make no mistake about it this is one of the most complicated shows seen at Pit in ages -- this show will nail it in the entertainment factor.

Already Jim Gaertner’s rip-smart cast has has nailed it. 

This is a physical, all-out show, full of bits of business needing near-perfect timing, and they never wavered on Thursday night. 

Their facial expressions and body English were scene stealers all over the place. Their diction was generally clear and not rushed, with a few exceptions. They danced like pros. Sang well for the most part (again a few exceptions in this score with some new music not in the movie). And they navigated treacherous castle steps without breaking their necks.

To a one, they were in character and stayed in character -- in a show where being a caricature threatens because everyone is this show is wacky.

Standouts.....Greg Allison as Igor, the witty, slithering, stooped assistant to Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (played by Christopher Dinnan, who utters the line “Pardon me boy, is this the Transylvania station); Lucy Malacos as Frau Bluecher, the stern castle maven who desperately croons “He Vas My Boyfriend”; Kevin Profitt as the grunting monster on elevator shoes; Christy Horn as the slutty Inga enjoying a “Roll in the Hay”, Eric Schantz as the cocky town inspector; the ensemble in a variety of scenes.

Kudos galore to choreographer Candy (Brown) Kotze as well as director Gaertner; to music director S. Noel Howland; to set designer (and former Saginawian) Chris Largent, what a set); to the costume crew for an amazing bunch of rag-tag stuff.

Mel Brooks would be proud.

For more pictures from the show:


  1. We are Christy's parents and we can't wait to see the show tonight! So proud of you Christy! Thanks Janet for the great review!

  2. "Their facial expressions and body English were scene stealers all over the place. Their diction was generally clear and not rushed, with a few exceptions. They danced like pros. Sang well for the most part (again a few exceptions in this score with some new music not in the movie). And they navigated treacherous castle steps without breaking their necks."

    The diction was a disaster. Nearly no one in the cast was accurately portraying the dialect of the region. When they did get it right... you didn't understand the line!

    They danced like pros?! Really, Janet, Pros?! Have you ever seen professional theatre? I can guarantee with the firmest of beliefs that no one in this cast (sans trained tappers) would be hired for a "professional dance role" ... ever.

    "Sang well for the most part" ... you must be accustomed to this sort of amateur entertainment if you consider that type of vocalization singing. At best, there was speaking-on-pitch and in rhythm... or close to it.

    " a few exceptions in this score with some new music not in the movie" - and that is supposed to be an excuse for poor performance? So, to get this straight... is it acceptable for actors to hack away at songs that have never been heard before, or were not a part of the source material?
    I can assure you, if that is the case, that any future shows at Pit and Balcony will be riddled with poor performances. Seeing as nearly every new work being produced for the stage is an adaptation of a hollywood film.... be careful Shrek, Legally Blonde, and Addams Family fans... there are songs in the show that aren't in those movies... might want to stay away if the producers of those potential local productions feel the same way as Janet. "It's ok... it wasn't in the original"

    And, I beg you... please... tell me when did going up and down stairs become a talent worth mentioning?

    And the set, while inventive, was cheap and seemed to belong in a high school in Iowa some place. As for the costumes... thank god it's Halloween season, because without those seasonal stores... the costume team would have had no where to go buy their cheap polyester "cloaks"
    Makeup was a disaster as well... Why did Igor have pseudo "Tin Man" silver eyes? Please someone justify that choice! Why was there no effort taken to make the show period specific? The hair and wigs makes me ill to even think about discussing.

    The one positive thing I will say... the tappers were phenominal. Those girls obviously put in a lot of hours and energy into that dance number. It overwhelmingly out shined the entire show. Too bad there was no mention of WHO those girls were or what company they train with in the program....they were slighted.

    Obviously this is a biased review of a show, that I witnessed first-hand, and must say.... this was nothing to write home about.

    Any positive review points about plot or gags are a part of the Mel Brooks contribution to this production, and it's only saving grace... the script. So, good job on choosing a good script! Poor job executing it. I fear for Spring Awakening.

  3. Really Mr/Ms. Anonymous? You really think the show was that bad? If they were so horrible, why were there so many people lined up on Friday of the second weekend that they had to delay the start of the show for 20 minutes? Why did they have to put out folding chairs to accommodate the overflow? why did they practically sell out every night? This isn't Broadway. Everybody knows this isn't Broadway. This is community theatre. Pit and Balcony put on one hell of a great show. The actors did a fantastic job, especially for not being paid professionals. If you wanted a Broadway performance, you should have gone to New York.

    First off, the diction was NOT a disaster. Have you ever seen the film? They were pretty close to what the film portrayed as the dialect. So, essentially, you're saying Mel Brook's movie was a disaster, too!

    As for the dancing... Have you ever seen community theatre? I can guarantee, with the firmest beliefs, that this isn't professional theatre, and to expect amateurs to dance as well as people who make a living at it makes you an ass. Professionals spend 8 or more hours a day learning their routines. These people learned this in their spare time, because they all had other jobs. I believe they did a fantastic job, especially considering they were dancing to somewhat professional level choreography. This choreography was way more intense than most community theatre choreography.

    Yes, they did sing well for the most part. Of course there were a couple people who didn't sing great, but, again, this is COMMUNITY THEATRE, NOT THE PROS!!!! Also, have you ever sang a showtune? There will often be parts during a song where the vocalist is required to speak the part, rather than sing it, and, yes, it's often on-pitch and in rhythm. I personally think the leads did a fantastic job with their songs. "Together Again" with Igor and the Dr was excellent. Their vioces blended perfectly. And Frau's "He Vas My Boyfriend" stole the show!

    "a few exceptions in this score with some new music not in the movie"--- You, sir/ma'am/anonymous-ball-of-hate, have taken this statement out of context. This wasn't an excuse. it was a statement. Janet was simply pointing out that there was some new music that wasn't in the movie, since she had just mentioned the score. your argument is fraudulent.

    I beg you..... please..... Tell me, when did it become a crime to add a bit of personal observation about something that stuck in your mind about the set, when writing in your own damn blog?

    And the set WAS inventive, and not at all cheap. Well, maybe it was compared to a BROADWAY set, but, again, this is COMMUNITY THEATRE!!!!!!!!!!! The set builders did an amazing job with the limited budget they had. Have you ever worked on a community theatre project? Do you really think community theatres can compete on the same level as a professional theatre when it comes to budget? The fact alone that it evolved between a classroom, a dock, a train station, a hayride, outside a castle, inside a castle, a laboratory, a dungeon, a town square, a forest, a hermit's home and a cave in the woods is pretty epic for community theatre. That's a total of 12 different locations. Most plays have 1. I'd LOVE to see a HS in Iowa pull that off. (BTW, I've been to Iowa. Some of those schools are HUGE, and have a theater as good as the Temple!)

    Yes, thank God it was Halloween season! Do you know how much it costs to purchase the materials for cloaks? Let alone the time it takes to make enough to cover almost the entire cast? These aren't the pros, remember? The costumers have other jobs, too. They can't be sitting there sewing for 12 hours a day, so, yes, sometimes you make do with what you can find, if it keeps the production on track and under budget. I fear you object because you have no imagination.

    Make-up was NOT a disaster. I do agree that the Igor choice was a bit baffling, but one example doesn't mean everything was bad, The monster looked fantastic.

  4. As for being period specific, there WAS no specific period stated in the script. plus, how do you know what the period was? And how do you know what people in Transylvania wore during that period? They tried to keep the period to the early half of the 20th century (1940's, roughly), but, again, they didn't have a professional budget. They used old suitcases, peasant style clothing on the villagers and no modern technology (except that which was built by the dr.) Should Dr Frankenstein have worn a Zoot Suit? Please, in all your wisdom, explain what was wrong!

    So, what exactly was wrong with the wigs and hair? Are you talking about the 1 scene where there was a person with blue hair and one with pink? THAT WAS A DREAM SEQUENCE! You can do whatever the hell you want in a dream. And the "bride of Frankenstein" wig was outstanding!

    At least we agree the tap dancers were phenomenal. They DID put in a ton of work and deserve every bit of recognition. If they were slighted in the program, then that was a mistake.

    By the way, any positive review points about the plot or gags are not necessarily a part of the Mel Brooks contribution. Yes, the script was written by Brooks, but not everything you see on stage was his creation. Actors and directors are creative people, as well. Let me ask, have you ever read a script for a play? The script doesn't spell out every little nuance an actor must do during a performance. The script is mostly just the dialogue, with a sprinkling of direction, when absolutely necessary to get the point across. Everything else, including facial expressions and HOW the line is delivered, is up to the actor and director. I know for a fact MANY of the gags were thought up by the actors. For example, there was NOTHING in the script telling Dr Frank how to react to Inga during "Roll In The Hay". His expressions MADE that song! And the bookcase scene? Yes, that was written by Mel, but it still had to be executed perfectly in order to work (which it was!) When Dr F was discussing "Abby Normal" with Igor, Frau and Inga were hilarious checking out the monster's "shvanstucker" (not in the script). Kemp getting his hook ripped off by the monster was great (not in the script). And Dr F leaping on to the monster, while screaming like a girl, as he tried to keep him on the table after a shot of sedative was brilliantly executed to gut-busting laughter (also not in the script).

    One thing you forget about a comedy is that, no matter what is written, it must be executed. Nobody can have comedic timing by simply reading a script. True comedic timing is a skill that is honed over years. This cast had it. they were funny from start to finish. And though they weren't professionals, they were pretty damn good. They entertained sell-out crowds for 6 shows, and isn't that the whole point? So, good job choosing a great script! EXCELLENT job executing it!

    And, finally, yes, it is QUITE obvious you are biased. But why are you unfairly prejudiced against this show? did you audition and not get a part?If that's true, then what right do you have to talk bad of someone's skill, if you weren't good enough to be on their level? Maybe you didn't audition, because you're too scared to try? Don't rain on someone else's fun because you're jealous. Maybe you're just an elitist ass who denigrates anything not "professional" because it's "full of amateurs", is that it? Or is it that you lack imagination, and, unless it is full of CGI, you just don't get it? Or are you just that much of an asshole that you shit on everything?

    1. To be fair, there are numerous videos of the original Broadway performance floating around online as well as, I would assume, bootlegs of the full show. It's also based on a fairly popular movie. I'm guessing that most of the bits that you mention were in the original production and you're attempting to pass them off as something this cast came up with on the fly, running on the assumption that most people haven't seen anything from the Broadway show. I'm not saying it's unfair to do that, but call a spade a spade.

  5. I don't know you, nor your background in theatre, but personally, I'm inclined to take the word of a "professional" who spent years reviewing plays over an "amateur" commenting on a blog. Or maybe I'll take the word of the multitude of other patrons that "thoroughly enjoyed" the play, and thought it was "well-executed" and "professionally done" (actual quotes, btw). Several people thought it was, and I quote directly, "the best play Pit and Balcony has produced in years!" One lady even said, "this performance could play in New York". Oh, and, for the record, that lady lives in Manhattan.

    So, I don't know if you're jealous, bitter, scared, elitist or just an ass, but you are just one person against THOUSANDS who loved it. Take that for what you will. I'll end with my final words of wisdom:

    "Those that can, do. Those that can't, bitch about it anonymously on an internet blog."

    1. I'm sorry, but never EVER listen to someone who says that any community theatre production could play in New York. We all know that that isn't even slightly true. She's attempting to compliment you, but she clearly doesn't know what she's talking about. No community theatre production, especially most of the stuff that Pit seems to think is "impressive", could ever play on a stage in New York, let alone anywhere besides Saginaw where most of their audience doesn't know any better.