“Young Frankenstein” shows that monsters are not what they seem

“Join the family business, learn yourself the trade, make yourself a monster, make the world afraid!” The Frankenstein family has passed along the tradition of monster-building for generations–that is, until Dr. Frederick Frankenstein, who pronounces his name “Fronkensteen,” is reluctant to follow in his ancestors’ footsteps. 

On Thursday, Nov. 14, the Concordia theatre department will present “Young Frankenstein,” a musical created by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan, based on the 1974 film of the same name. The show follows the misadventures of the young Frankenstein, as he travels to Transylvania to manage his grandfather’s estate after his passing. Through a caricatural cast of characters and high-energy musical numbers, the story of Frankenstein unfolds. Concordia’s performances are directed by Donna Kaz and run from Nov. 14 through Nov. 23. 

Kaz is a former Guerilla Girl, an anonymous feminist activist artist group that is known for their work on exposing gender and ethnic bias and corruption in the arts and entertainment industries. When it came to “Young Frankenstein,” she did not hesitate to use this background to put her own spin on the show. 

“There are some aspects of the show that are misogynistic, that buy into myths, and I’ve totally taken that out and changed it. We just took a hard look at some of the misogynistic parts of the play and tried to turn them on their head, and make them feminist and funny. Which was actually a lot of fun to do. We didn’t change any of the script, the dialogue, we just made the intentions different,” she said. 

Lucas Burr, a sophomore music education major, is playing the role of Frederick Frankenstein. Though the rehearsal process has been structured, it is also largely collaborative. 

“It’s really fun. She’s [Kaz] got a very interesting directing style, which is different than most everything I’ve experienced. In some ways, she’s very structured,but at the same time there are a lot of things that happen that we don’t come up with a solution for, and she says ‘We’ll figure it out,’ and so you just have to go with the flow. It’s a good mix of structure and we’re playing with it and building something together,” he said. 

Tanner Garrigan, a senior music major, plays Frankenstein’s monster in the show, and has enjoyed working with Kaz in rehearsals as well. 

“It is a blast. She just brings a whole new energy to rehearsal, to everything. It was really nice to hear her talk about being a Guerilla Girl. We saw a whole new side of our director. Before that, we’d just known her as our director. Getting to see her in that new light really made a difference in our dynamic in rehearsal,” he said.

The weeks of rehearsal have culminated in a rollicking comedic production. 

“They’re [the audience] going to laugh. They’re going to be entertained. They’re going to be amazed at how well Concordia students dance. They’re going to be tap dancing, which is always fun to see, great singing, and whether they are Mel Brooks fans or not, there are a lot of funny things in the show,” Kaz said. 

Garrigan agrees. 

“It’s just so funny. It’s getting close to the end of the semester, everyone’s freaking out because they have projects due, finals are coming up. It’s a good two-and-a-half hour break to go see a show of your classmates just having a blast onstage. It’s a whirlwind, a rollercoaster of fun,” he said.

But while there is comedy, there is also depth beneath the surface of the characters. 

“There’s a lot to develop and there’s a big shift over the entirety of the show, especially in Dr. Frankenstein. It’s really been exciting and interesting to learn about that and develop the character as rehearsals have been progressing. I was surprised that it was more than just comedy, there’s more to it than that,” Burr said. 

“The real monsters aren’t who you think,” Garrigan said, leaving the audience to decipher for themselves who the true monsters are. 

While the production is comedic and entertaining, it does contain adult language and humor and may not be suitable for younger audiences. Showtimes are Nov. 14-16, 21-23 at 8 p.m. and Nov. 17 at 2 p.m. Tickets are free for Concordia students, alumni, faculty, and staff, $10 for adults, and $5 for seniors and non-Concordia students. 

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