‘Young Frankenstein’ FSCJ Summer Musical Theatre Review

A DUAL CRITICS REVIEW

FSCJ Summer Series, Young Frankenstein

The FSCJ Artist Series and the Nathan H. Wilson Center for the Arts debuted the thirteenth annual High School Summer Musical Theatre Experience (SMTE) on July 20th, 2018 with “Young Frankenstein,” Mel Brooks’ zany musical, which runs through July 29th.

The musical is based Brooks’ 1974 black and white comedy-horror film by the same name. The film became and remains a cult passion; DVDs are available in public libraries and on-line, and it’s screened on television from time to time. Brooks wrote the lyrics and music for all but one of the songs in the adaptation (“Puttin’ On The Ritz” was written by Irving Berlin). The show, which opened on Broadway in 2007, cost $16 million to produce. Opening night tickets were priced at $450, which made the production famous before the first curtain.

The musical follows the film closely, with song and dance added. The story focuses on the experiences of Dr. Frederick Frankenstein, as he pursues ground-breaking medical research. The character is portrayed marvelously by Jeremy Ferri, who has appeared in two previous SMTE shows, “West Side Story” and “Cats.”

FSCJ Summer Series, Young Frankenstein

Fredrick’s life as a professor in a prestigious New York medical school changes after he learns that his grandfather, a Transylvania resident, has died. He travels to Europe to settle his family’s estate, which includes an ancient castle with a well-equipped laboratory. His grandfather, Dr. Victor Von Frankenstein, who is portrayed by Aidan Jones, was a brilliant but mad scientist, able to breathe life into dead flesh. Frederick soon becomes fascinated with his ancestor’s experiments and decides it is his duty to continue Victor’s efforts and “join the family business.”

Frankenstein was initially brought to life by Mary Shelley, a young English author, whose famous novel was first published in 1818. We will leave the unfolding of the story for you to experience, except to say that Fredrick does of course, create a monster, an intimidating super-sized monster: Shelley would have been pleased to see her creature brought to life. Note that parental discretion is advised for young children, as the show includes some sexually suggestive situations and double entendres.

The show is colorful and is filled with engaging and colorful characters. The hunchback Igor, Victor’s original assistant, is assigned the task of finding a brain for Fredrick’s new creation. He is a campy character played by Stanton senior Brendan Murphy, who spends two hours bent at the waist to portray Igor’s physical disability.

Inga (Lana Davidenko, a Douglas Anderson senior), is Fredrick’s sexy Swedish lab assistant who sings up a storm and also yodels. “A Roll in the Hay” was a show stopper.

Elizabeth Benning, played by Isabella Williams, is a rich heiress (with the dresses to prove it) who is introduced as Fredrick’s fiancée, but subsequently becomes enamored with the monster. She also belts out powerful songs, including “Deep Love” during Act II.

'Young Frankenstein' FSCJ Summer Musical

Frau Blücher is the castle’s mysterious housekeeper, who was in love with Victor. She is portrayed by Ponte Vedra High School junior Jasmine Hurt, and her song “He Vas My Boyfriend” was a crowd favorite.

One of the funniest bits in the show featured Jack Niemczyk, a Douglas Anderson School of the Arts junior, as the lonely blind hermit who befriends the monster after singing the terrific solo number “Please Send Me Someone.”

Douglas Anderson senior, Gannon Thomas, is the one arm and one legged Police Inspector Kemp, who relentlessly chases the newly created monster. Another featured player is Auggie Pulliam, who portrays the well-intentioned simpleton Ziggy to perfection.

We know Sandalwood senior Johnny Flannagan can grunt, groan, and terrify as the show’s Monster, but he surprised everyone with his polished dancing and singing in one of the funniest roles in the show. This is Flannagan’s second SMTE show; he appeared in last year’s “West Side Story.”

'Young Frankenstein' FSCJ Summer Musical

The dance ensemble featured eleven dancers from schools throughout the area and included Ella Bohannon, Sirena Mia De La Rosa, Aja Farber, Liberty Frederickson, Dylan Lewis, Sara Mills, Alex Peek, Olivia Phillips, Grace Royal, Samarra Taplin, and Ryleigh Taylor. These dancers were everywhere including the aisles, the balconies, and the stage, where they were sensational in “Puttin’ On The Ritz”. The Character Ensemble featured thirty-two students dressed in the costumes of Transylvania residents, who added a deepened dimension to the foreign setting.

Director Erik DeCicco, Jacksonville University’s Assistant Theatre Director, was once again splendid in his casting and directing (just as with last year’s “West Side Story”). Michelle Ottley-Fisher as Choreographer, with Brian Alford as Assistant, created visually exciting dance routines.

Dustin Pettegrew, a Philadelphia-based scenic designer (and a Jacksonville native), created the wonderful massive castle and multiple location settings, which included the dungeon, forest, and laboratory.

The Crew included: Beth Harvey, Producer/Program Director; Aaron DeCicco, Vocal Director; Samuel Fisher, Movement Coach; Samuel Parker, Technical Director; Johnny Pettegrew, Lighting Designer; Camala Pitts and Dorinda Quiles assisted by Logan Wilkins-Kinhofer (Costume Designers); Emily Kritzman, Stage Manager; Jay Deen, Monster Make-Up Artist; Amanda Harvey, Make Up Artist.

The show is fast-paced from opening to closing and filled with humor and excellent singing and dancing; another terrific production brought to the stage by the amazing talented students from our North Florida schools. Thanks go to the FSCJ Artist Series for another magnificent summertime musical.

About Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom

The Dual Critics of EU Jacksonville have been reviewing plays together for the past nine years. Dick Kerekes has been a critic since 1980, starting with The First Coast Entertainer and continuing as the paper morphed into EU Jacksonville. Leisla Sansom wrote reviews from time to time in the early 80s, but was otherwise occupied in the business world. As a writing team, they have attended almost thirty Humana Festivals of New America Plays at Actors Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky, and many of the annual conferences sponsored by the American Theatre Critics Association, which are held in cities throughout the country. They have reviewed plays in Cincinnati, Chicago, Miami, Sarasota, Minneapolis, Orlando, New York, Philadelphia, Sarasota, San Francisco, Shepherdstown, and The Eugene O’Neill Center in Waterford, Massachusetts. They currently review about one hundred plays annually in the North Florida area theaters, which include community, college, university, and professional productions.

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