Bill Hanney saved the best for last at his Theatre-by-the-Sea in Matunuck with his production of Mel Brooks’ musical adaptation of one of the funniest movies ever made, “Young Frankenstein.”
Hanney and director/choreographer Kevin P. Hill chose to stay as close to the movie as the confines of live theatre will allow, even to the point of projecting movie credits on the screen to open the show.
Mel Brooks is one funny writer, and his sense of humor comes through loud and clear in this terrific production. Everything that should be in a successful musical comedy is there: great sets, perfect comic timing, good voices, choreography, acting, props and, most important, actors who “get it.”
Leading the pack is Tommy Labanaris as Frederick Frankenstein, the New Hampshire actor who is making quite a name for himself in Rhode Island. His role requires a good singing voice, quick comic timing and demanding physical humor. Labanaris comes through on all three counts.
Returning to TBTS after last year’s roles in “Mary Poppins” and “Spamalot” is Brad Bradley, who turned the role of Igor into one big laugh-in.
Brian Padgett, who played an entirely different role last year in “Mary Poppins,” steals the show as The Monster. If ever an actor brought down the house with a performance, it was Padgett, getting roars from the audience with just a turn of the head.
Padgett leads the troupe through the classic number in the show, “Putting on the Ritz”, which was about the best single production number I have seen in many a year.
Brooks’ humor includes hilarious double entendres, groaner puns, one-liners, guffaws and lots of physical humor, all of which require precision timing. The huge cast is up to the task, leaving the audience little time to recover before the next scene.
While Brooks can get a bit risqué at times, the humor is harmless and very, very funny. The scene with a yodeling assistant (the wonderful Mary Clair King) and Labanaris, riding to the castle on a horse-drawn hay wagon, is a classic, as is the scene when the Monster escapes to a blind hermit’s shack.
Speaking of the blind hermit, Rhode Island’s own Tom Gleadow, who has landed some meaty roles at TBTS in the past, has three of them in this production. Gleadow’s blind hermit is a comic classic. He also plays Inspector Kemp, the leader of the town who leads the townspeople against the Monster, plus a patient involved in an experiment. Gleadow is one of those rare actors who can comfortably fit into any role, even three in one show.
Add Sandy Rosenberg as the scary Frau Blucher, who makes horses whinny at the mere sound of her name, Brittney Morello, who has her hilarious moment with the Monster, and an ensemble that sings and dances up a storm, and you have a MUST SEE winner at Theatre-by-the-Sea.
“Young Frankenstein” plays through September 6 and is sure to quickly become the hottest ticket of the summer. Call 782-8587 for reservations before it’s too late.