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updated: 10/7/2016 8:09 AM

Appealing leads, able chorus animate Metropolis' 'Young Frankenstein'

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  • Frederick Frankenstein (Patrick Tierney), right, and his Creature (T.C. Fair) perform a soft shoe in Metropolis Performing Arts Centre's "The New Mel Brooks Musical Young Frankenstein."

    Frederick Frankenstein (Patrick Tierney), right, and his Creature (T.C. Fair) perform a soft shoe in Metropolis Performing Arts Centre's "The New Mel Brooks Musical Young Frankenstein."
    Courtesy of Liz Lach

 
 

What Metropolis Performing Arts Centre's enthusiastic revival of Mel Brooks' "Young Frankenstein" lacks in scenic design, its plucky chorus and likable leading man make up in vocal prowess.

There are a few errant notes in the orchestra, a cast member struggles with the upper register and the sets, with the notable exception of the laboratory, are Spartan. But overall Metropolis' production is solidly entertaining thanks in part to its anchor, the talented Patrick Tierney.

Adapted from Brooks' 1974 film (which he co-wrote with star Gene Wilder), "The New Mel Brooks Musical Young Frankenstein" (its official title) is loosely inspired by Mary Shelley's 19th-century novel.

Powered by a bouncy score, the musical centers on Tierney's Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (pronounced Frohnk-en-steen), an amiable neuroscience professor eager to escape his family legacy.

After his grandfather dies, Frederick -- the Frankenstein family's sole survivor -- bids farewell to his "madcap" society girlfriend Elizabeth (Sari Greenberg) and heads to Transylvania to settle the estate.

Despite his disdain for reanimating dead corpses -- a hobby his dead relatives embraced -- Frederick finds himself drawn to the "family business," encouraged by housekeeper Frau Blucher (Susan Wingerter). With help from quirky Igor (pronounced Eye-gor and played by the nimble Nathan Cooper) and comely lab assistant Inga (a sweetly comic Ali Breneman), Frederick accomplishes his goal.

Frederick (Patrick Tierney) and his assistant Inga (Ali Breneman) have a roll in the hay on the way to the Frankenstein family estate in Metropolis Performing Arts Centre's "The New Mel Brooks Musical Young Frankenstein," directed by Robin M. Hughes.
Frederick (Patrick Tierney) and his assistant Inga (Ali Breneman) have a roll in the hay on the way to the Frankenstein family estate in Metropolis Performing Arts Centre's "The New Mel Brooks Musical Young Frankenstein," directed by Robin M. Hughes. - Courtesy of Liz Lach

The result is a giant, green-skinned creature (T.C. Fair) who soon runs amok, frightening villagers and romancing Elizabeth, who shows up unannounced with an entourage.

Director Robin M. Hughes' plucky supporting ensemble members and principals are comprised equally of Metropolis veterans and recent college graduates who sing and dance up a storm, accompanied by conductor/music director Micky York's sextet.

Encouraged by Igor (Nathan Cooper), left, Frau Blucher (Susan Wingerter), second from left, and Inga (Ali Breneman), Frederick Frankenstein (Patrick Tierney), right, considers embracing the "family business" in Metropolis Performing Arts Centre's "The New Mel Brooks Musical Young Frankenstein."
Encouraged by Igor (Nathan Cooper), left, Frau Blucher (Susan Wingerter), second from left, and Inga (Ali Breneman), Frederick Frankenstein (Patrick Tierney), right, considers embracing the "family business" in Metropolis Performing Arts Centre's "The New Mel Brooks Musical Young Frankenstein." - Courtesy of Liz Lach

Brooks wrote the lyrics and composed the score, with the exception of Irving Berlin's "Puttin' on the Ritz," which fans of the film will recall. Speaking of the film, Brooks has retained its best bits, including Frederick and Inga's discovery of the secret passage and Elizabeth's lusty encounter with The Creature.

Brooks, who shares a writing credit with Thomas Meehan, seems to operate on the principal that too much is never enough. He peppers "Young Frankenstein" with shtick, and the double-entendres suggest he never met a sexual innuendo he didn't like.

It all goes on a bit too long. But the show compensates with numbers like the aforementioned "Puttin' on the Ritz," which begins as a soft shoe duet between Tierney and Fair and morphs into a full-blown production number complete with tuxedo-clad tap dancers. It's choreographed by Kristine Burdi, who's also responsible for "The Family Business" a rousing number showcasing Hughes' energetic, athletic cast.

Patrick Tierney stars as Dr. Frederick Frankenstein, who tries unsuccessfully to distance himself from his family legacy, in "The New Mel Brooks Musical Young Frankenstein" at the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre in Arlington Heights.
Patrick Tierney stars as Dr. Frederick Frankenstein, who tries unsuccessfully to distance himself from his family legacy, in "The New Mel Brooks Musical Young Frankenstein" at the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre in Arlington Heights. - Courtesy of Liz Lach

Tierney is appealing as the nebbishy academic seduced by family legacy and ambition. And the camaraderie between him and Cooper is evident in their hugely entertaining version of the jaunty "Together Again." Breneman shows off her yodeling skills in "Roll in the Hay," and Wingerter mines laughs from Blucher's "He Vas My Boyfriend."

"Young Frankenstein" isn't perfect, but it's a solid introduction to an ambitious Metropolis season.

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