What better way to close out a season than with a laugh? Or, in the case of Rivertown Theaters’ choice of “Young Frankenstein,” lots of laughs.
Closely following the plot of the 1974 Mel Brooks movie of the same name, “Young Frankenstein” is both a parody of the horror flick genre and a lighthearted musical comedy.
It opens Friday at Rivertown and runs three successive weekends, closing May 24.
Gary Rucker, co-director — along with Kelly Fouchi — of Rivertown Theaters, stars as Dr. Frederick Frankenstein. Like the character in the film and in the 2007 Broadway musical adaptation, he pronounces his name as “Fronk-en-steen” in order to distance himself from the notorious grandfather of whom he is ashamed.
Other cast members in the Rivertown production include Mason Wood as Igor (pronounced “Eye-gor”), Tracey Collins (Frau Blucher), Elise Harvey (Inga), Hannah Rachel (Elizabeth) and Jeff Springman as the Monster. There also is a 16-member ensemble cast.
“One of the things we all noticed as we watched the movie is that it is incredibly subtle,” Rucker said. “We’re trying to keep all the subtle humanity of the roles but with a touch of excitement for musical theater.
“My character is written a little bit more amped up in the musical, so we’re trying to walk that fine line of gentle and crazy.”
Rucker explained that director Ricky Graham recommended writing some scenes and lines into the production that were in the film version but left out of the Broadway musical adaptation. Rucker said he was agreeable to making those changes.
“I’ve seen parts of the Broadway production, and there were some things I liked, but there was a lot of it I didn’t like,” Rucker said.
“So I was glad not to like it because it didn’t make me want to copy everything they did. We’re very much making this our own production, design-wise and character interpretation-wise, but I think we’re being faithful to the original material.”
The musical features 20 production numbers, all but one penned and scored by Brooks.
There’s also Irving Berlin’s “Puttin’ on the Ritz,” a lively Act II tap-dancing piece performed in formal attire by Frederick and the Monster, along with Inga, Igor and the ensemble.
As Frau Blucher, Collins has one of the most colorful roles in the production. The surprise revelation that she and the original Dr. Frankenstein had a romantic relationship leads to one of the production’s best-known songs, “He Vas My Boyfriend.”
“I am loving it,” Collins said, referring to her role and the production itself. “It’s a lot of fun. It’s a really huge show, and ‘Young Frankenstein’ was always one of my favorite Mel Brooks movies.”
Although portrayed as the heavy in the film version, “Frau Blucher really has a heart of gold under it all,” Collins said. “She’s the only one who believes that the Monster is good.”
And, as far as what she brings to the role, Collins added, “I’m bringing the funny, my forte, dry humor.”
One of the running gags audiences best remember from the movie is when the horses at the castle start whinnying in fear and rearing up on their hind legs at the mention of Frau Blucher’s name. This effect is recreated in the stage version.
“There was a Prussian general with that name who was in three separate battles and had his horse shot out from under him each time,” Collins said. “He survived, and all three horses died. Mel Brooks probably dug up that little piece of trivia and put it in just for a joke.”
Other key personnel involved with the production are Rosemary Lloyd, who is responsible for doing the makeup for the show, and David Raphael, who designed the elaborate sets.
“If you know the movie, you’ll love the show,” Rucker said. “And even if you don’t know the movie, it’s still such an exciting musical that’s really funny. I think everyone will love it.”