Performances, tech, vocals, orchestra each set standard of excellence in West Potomac’s ‘Young Frankenstein’

Amin Yachnes - Ben Roberts and Katie Carbone

With masterful physical humor, brilliant pacing, and excellent showmanship, students put a hilarious spin on a tragic tale in West Potomac High School’s production of Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein, the musical.

The Mel Brooks musical was based on his 1974 film of the same name, a parody of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and the horror genre as a whole. First opening on Broadway in 2007, Young Frankenstein closed after a 14-month run. West Potomac’s production, advertised “for mature audiences only,” performed most of the bawdy humor from the Broadway version.

The grandson of the infamous Victor Frankenstein, Frederick Frankenstein (Ben Roberts) wants nothing more than to distance himself from his legendary family, including pronouncing his last name as “Frahnkensteen.” However, when news of his Victor’s death reaches New York, Frederick must travel to Transylvania to manage his grandfather’s estate. There, he meets hunchback servant Igor (David Jarzen), prim housekeeper Frau Blucher (Emily Carbone), and “Transylvanian trollop” Inga (Katie Carbone), who is hired to be Frederick’s lab assistant.

In many jokes, Frederick plays the “straight man,” but Roberts’ clear, consistent voice and dynamic facial expressions kept his constant deadpan from making his character appear dull. Jarzen’s unwavering ghoulish voice and gait, in addition to his spot-on timing, sent the audience roaring countless times. In fact, the only inconsistent element in Jarzen’s turn as the comically creepy character was the location of the hump on his back, which Igor pointedly ignores throughout the show. Emily Carbone’s shameless humor made her character shine in the uproarious number “He Vas My Boyfriend,” where she reveals that she was more than a housekeeper to the late Victor Frankenstein. Completing the Transylvanian trio, Katie Carbone brought ceaseless energy and an unbelievably powerful voice to Inga, especially in outstanding numbers like “Roll in the Hay,” during which she both yodels and belts. Both Carbones characterized their roles with German/Romanian accents in typical Mel Brooks style, the show humorously fused together stereotypes of several European cultures.

Continuing the show’s standard of excellence were Peter Serle as the bitter Inspector Kemp, Eddie Perez as a forlorn Hermit, and a “Quartet” of underclassmen singers who produced excellent harmonies. Not to be forgotten was an ensemble of skillful dancers, that was featured in many large numbers.

The performers’ vocal talents were enhanced by a talented group of student instrumentalists, the “Frankenstein Orchestra,” which impressively performed the original show score.

Technical elements also succeeded in conveying the comic-horror genre of Young Frankenstein. Props by Margaret Gorguissian were very smartly designed; for instance, when Igor dropped the human brain, the audience could almost feel it squish. Brogan Latil and a large crew well-fulfilled the demanding set requirements with ease, creating pieces such as a turning bookcase and a Hermit’s hut that The Monster partially destroys onstage. Costumes were effective in capturing each character’s personality; in addition, the sheer number of costumes produced was in itself noteworthy. Excellent marketing/publicity included an interesting, retro-style program cover, that showcased Young Frankenstein’s mockery of the horror genre.

Any audience member who thought that he or she would be seeing a heavy, disturbing Frankenstein was certainly in for a surprise. With larger-than-life character portrayals and first-rate delivery of edgy humor, West Potomac High School’s production of Young Frankenstein the Musical had audiences shrieking not with fear, but with laughter.

 
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