News Column

'Young Frankenstein' puts on the Ritz at Roger Rocka's

November 15, 2013

YellowBrix

Nov. 15--If you can watch Frankenstein's Monster stomp-dance his way through "Puttin' on the Ritz" and not crack a smile, you don't have a comedy pulse.

The musical-theater production of the beloved movie "Young Frankenstein" offers lots of fodder for Mel Brooks fans. The local premiere of the show, now in its opening weekend at Roger Rocka's Dinner Theater, is about as close to the movie as you can get without driving down to Blockbuster and renting the DVD. Well, if most Blockbusters were still open. Does "Young Frankenstein" stream on Netflix?

Here are five things you should know about the GCP production.

1. The Monster dances. It's quite a feat to put on 6-inch boots and tap dance. That's the challenge for GCP veteran Daniel Sutherland, who will stand about 6 feet, 8 inches in his specially constructed tap boots for the big "Puttin' on the Ritz" production number. Tapping is hard enough without doing it as an almost-skyscraper.

2. The musical is chock full of the one-liners, goofy situations and outrageous characters that "Young Frankenstein" movie fans adore. Do you crack up in the movie when Frau Blucher reveals her personal relationship with Viktor von Frankenstein, explaining, "He vas my boyfriend"? In the musical, that's the title of an entire song. Whinnying horses at the mention of the Frau's name? Check. Scalding hot soup in the Monster's crotch? Wouldn't be the same without it. Igor's traveling hump? Don't fret, it'll be there. (Just not in the same place twice.)

3. For GCP, this has been a huge show to mount in terms of scenic design and props. The design team and director Fred Bologna had to build a castle, village, horse cart, doctor's lab, and, of course, the Loews Transylvania Theatre, where the "Ritz" scene occurs. In terms of props, designed by Bologna and Sam Ortega, nearly every scene has something that makes a designer say, "Oh, man, we have to make that?" The list goes on: six brains, skulls, skeletons, scientific diagrams, a coffin. Oh, not to mention that full-size cadaver.

4. "Young Frankenstein" isn't Disney. The GCP production comes with a strong PG-13 rating for language and suggestive humor. Think double entendre, sometimes without the double. You might want to leave the young monsters home for this one.

5. It's only natural to compare "Young Frankenstein," based on a popular movie, with another GCP offering earlier this season, "Spamalot," which was based on Monty Python. Both are musicals that pay homage to beloved source material, with scenes and catch phrases transferred wholesale.

While it's hard to quantify such things, GCP managing director Dan Pessano guesses that the movie "Young Frankenstein" is about three times as popular as the movie "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," on which "Spamalot" is largely based. (Pessano plays the famed Hermit in "Young Frankenstein," a character that allows Brooks to run through an astonishingly crass repertoire of blind jokes.) While Monty Python could be considered more of a cult film, "Young Frankenstein" is more in the comedy mainstream.

And even if you're a "Young Frankenstein" neophyte and don't guffaw when you hear the line "Put the candle back," you've still absorbed more than you think. As a cultural cornerstone, the Frankenstein story is something we all know. Even with a dancing monster.

Theater preview

"Young Frankenstein," through Jan. 12, Roger Rocka's Dinner Theater, 1226 N. Wishon Ave. gcplayers.com, (559) 266-9494. $29-$49

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6373, dmunro@fresnobee.com and @donaldbeearts on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.

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(c)2013 The Fresno Bee (Fresno, Calif.)

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