Bawdy, brainless, and quintessentially Brooks may be the best way to describe the musical Young Frankenstein, now playing at North Raleigh Arts and Creative Theatre (NRACT).
Based on the 1974 film of the same name, the show revisits the laboratory of Victor Frankenstein postmortem. This time his grandson, a scientist in his own right, has come to Transylvania to debunk the tall tales and reclaim his family name.
This is cultish fare, in a similar vein to The Rocky Horror Picture Show. But unlike Rocky Horror, which was conceived as a musical for the stage and then adapted into a film, Young Frankenstein was conceived as a spoof for the screen. To that end, like many film-to-stage adaptations, it suffers by comparison to its original source material and might be a disappointment to fans who have the comic genius of Gene Wilder etched in their brains.
But the intent of the NRACT production is not to regurgitate the iconic performances of the film. That would be folly. The intent is to welcome audiences back to NRACT with something that is high-spirited and fun. And this kooky clan accomplishes just that.
Collectively, they make the most of Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan’s harebrained material by leaning into its buffoonery. Over-the-top performances, some strong vocals, and big, showy musical numbers reward an amenable and ready audience and serve as a reminder that laughter (and escapism) is sometimes just what the doctor ordered.
There is nothing earth-shaking about Young Frankenstein, and director Thomas Mauney understands that fully. “It will vanish into ether with the exit music,” he writes in his Director’s Note. But, if there is any takeaway Mauney and crew wish to impart, it is that the very act of creating, the collaborative creative process itself, is sometimes more consequential than the finished product. And that is what makes this production of Young Frankenstein most commendable and applause worthy.
“One cannot not create,” Mauney says. “[It is] as much an involuntary nerve impulse as breathing.”
Young Frankenstein runs through November 7 at North Raleigh Arts and Creative Theatre. For more information visit http://www.nract.org/.