Tales from Transylvania Heights
Act I, Scene 1: Transylvania Heights: We hear a funeral dirge from the live band as a procession bearing a coffin crosses at stage front. The mad scientist Dr. Victor von Frankenstein has passed on and the villagers are ecstatic. Inspector Kemp (a funny Patrick Brownson), with a jerky wooden arm and leg, tries to keep the crowd civil.
Director Deb Flomberg had to change gears in her mind, I’d think, to inhabit this warped, but entertaining world described in legends, in the novel and early films about Frankenstein. The story is continued more recently by the brilliant but wacky, Mel Brooks, who adapted his movie for the stage and wrote music and lyrics. His edgy humor pops up throughout.
Next, we meet the mad scientist’s grandson, Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (Seth Maisel), a New York science professor who insists on pronouncing the name “Fronkensteen” and assures us he is not mad.
He spars and dances with his lady love, Elizabeth (Shahara Ray), who says, “Don’t touch!” A telegram arrives, instructing him to hurry to Transylvania to claim the castle inherited from his late grandfather — or the locals will claim it instead.
Frankenstein is greeted by the castle servant: a distinctly creepy, humpbacked, cloaked Igor (skillful comic Mark Shonsey) at the train station and escorted to his castle where he is met at the huge door by Frau Blucher (Barbara Porreca), who mourns for her late boss —“He Vas My Boyfriend.”
Soon, a buxom yodeling lab assistant, Inga (Kristi Siedow-Thompson) appears, ready to help young Frederick, should he wish to continue his grandfather’s experiments to create a monster. Of course…
Mike Kienker, with six-inch high soles on his boots, towers over everyone as the monster, causes havoc and the story progresses with song and dance numbers, choreographed by newcomer Jamie Horban.
The musical director is keyboardist Hunter Hall and there is an 11-piece band.
The newly remodeled Vintage main stage looks great, although we suspect the construction work cut into rehearsal time. Music wasn’t as smooth on opening night as it probably will be after a week, nor was the production quite as polished as it should be.
Perhaps Mel Brooks’ script and score run a bit long, but the concept is clever — to update the legend — and Maisel is bright, agile and adept as young Frankenstein. The production should improve with a few more run-throughs and it has some good song and dance numbers, including a tap-dancing monster. Now how many times can one experience that?