Review

All puns intended at DOMA's 'Young Frankenstein'

The stage musical version of 'Young Frankenstein' is given in an exuberant revival by DOMA Theatre Company

Underpinning much of Mel Brooks's comedy is the assumption that people constantly yearn to break into tightly choreographed, vaudeville-style song-and-dance routines.

Some conceal this impulse better than others, but not even the starchiest Brooks character can long resist the lure of a cane, a top hat and an up-tempo riff.

Turning his beloved films into Broadway musicals — first “The Producers,” then “Young Frankenstein” — gave Brooks the opportunity to treat both his characters and his fans to even more of what they crave: splashy numbers full of Borscht Belt humor, bawdy double-entendres and plenty of dance breaks.

The stage version of “Young Frankenstein,” now in an exuberant revival by DOMA Theatre Company, hews closely to the 1974 film in its book (by Thomas Meehan). But the music and lyrics (by Brooks) make it a new, extremely endearing beast, and Doma Theatre Company has the voltage to bring it to life.

When Dr. Victor von Frankenstein dies, his American grandson, Frederick (John David Wallis), a brain surgeon who distances himself from his family’s reputation by pronouncing his name “Frahnkensteen,” inherits the estate. Arriving in Transylvania, Frederick meets humpbacked Igor (Scott Seiffert), his would-be assistant, who sets out to beguile him first into a soft-shoe duet and then into the family business.

Frederick next meets Inga (Susan Huckle), a frisky laboratory assistant with a knack for yodeling, and Frau Blücher (Michelle Holmes), the estate’s sinister, twitchy housekeeper, whose very name affrights the horses. That night, he is visited by a ghostly chorus of Frankenstein forebears. “I dreamed about my ancestors and they were so crazy!” he shudders upon waking. “But boy, could they dance!”

When Frederick stumbles upon Victor’s secret lab (a visual treat by John Iacovelli), he can no longer resist his birthright.

These are engaging performers. If Wallis can’t approach Gene Wilder’s unforgettably leery expressions — could anybody? — he sings and dances with panache. In “He Was My Boyfriend,” Frau Blücher’s  confession of her affair with the late Dr. Frankenstein, Holmes brings down the house. Toni Smith is winsome as Elizabeth, Frederick’s “adorable, madcap fiancée,” who later finds “Deep Love” with his unholy creation.

But what truly animates this production (pun intended) is Hector S. Quintana’s adorable Monster, who comes to life as a grunting savage and ends up talking "like Noel Coward." His performance of “Puttin' on the Ritz,” flawlessly executing Angela Todaro’s choreography in platform boots (by costume designer Brandy Jacobs) is the highlight of the show.

If the production values are often dazzling, director Marco Gomez hasn’t foresworn the film’s quirky, low-budget vibe. He also captures the essential sweetness of Brooks’ vision in spite — or maybe because -- of the relentless sophomoric puns.

“Young Frankenstein” is ultimately redemptive: the story of a father who gives his misfit son the love, not to mention the brain transplant and — perhaps most important — the tap lessons he needs to find a place in a hostile world.

"Young Frankenstein," MET Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., Los Angeles. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays. Ends Nov. 16. $30. (323) 802-9181 or www.domatheatre.com. Running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes.

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