Ask Carrie Underwood what it’s like to have her live performance compared to an iconic film star’s. Unfair? Probably.
But it’s not Abby Normal, for goodness sake.
And it’s a fair guess a vast majority of patrons to Drury Lane’s staging of Mel Brooks’ musical “Young Frankenstein” will be scrutinizing the cast against their indelible forebearers Gene Wilder, Teri Garr, Marty Feldman, Cloris Leachman, Peter Boyle, and Madeline Kahn from the 1974 film.
The good news is, this Drury troupe’s homage to these stars is something out of the Kennedy Center Honors playbook, with fabulous singing and dancing to boot.
The production is led by terrific direction from William Osetek and excellent choreography by Tammy Mader (How did she find the time to choreograph this simultaneously with Paramount’s “42nd Street?”).
Devin DeSantis as Dr. Frederick Frankenstein, who channels Wilder by way of Ben Stiller, is absolutely terrific. So, too, are Allison Sill and Jeff Dumas as Frankenstein sidekicks Inga and Igor. Young Sill’s superb timing, effortless vocals (particularly showcased in “Roll in the Hay” and “Listen to Your Heart”) and overall grace illustrate why her Equity card is likely in the mail and indicate a long-lasting presence on Chicago’s professional stages.
Paula Scrofano as hilariously eerie Frau Blucher (insert horse whinny here) provides a wonderful tribute to Leachman and plays the show’s best comedic song, “He Vas My Boyfriend,” for every ounce of its humor. Travis Taylor as the monster is perfect in his sideways glances and classic tap to “Puttin’ on the Ritz.”
Lastly, Johanna McKenzie Miller as uptight Frankenstein fiancée Elizabeth Benning is Kahn personified. Her leap from Marriott’s “Mary Poppins” cast, where she assumed the title role for several performances during the run, to this staging is a testament to the versatility and talent of Chicagoland’s hard working professional actors.
Kudos, too, belong to Kevin Depinet for another opulent-yet-functional set littered with moving parts and one very cool laboratory.
The reason this show works is not a great book or particularly memorable music, but because it harkens enough connection to its screen parent. There’s scarcely an onscreen joke left out of the stage rendition. A synopsis of the plot, along with a history of the staging, can be found here.
Perhaps the best part of seeing any production at the beginning of its run, particularly a comedy, is knowing that repetition will only make the timing tighter and jokes crisper. For Drury Lane, that means a winter filled with laughter from audiences in stitches.
“Young Frankenstein” runs through March 16 at Drury Lane Theatre, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace, less than an hour drive from all North Shore suburbs. Parking is complimentary. Information and tickets ($35-$49, with additional dinner packages and senior and student discounts for some shows) are available online or by phone at 630-530-0111.
Barry Reszel is a Libertyville-based writer, at-home dad and executive director of the not-for-profit entertainment company Liberty Town Productions.