Ethan Switch - Sunday, 20 November 2011
Strobe lights are thick and fast, landing a white coat on the back of the throat while your eyes stumble out of their sockets and jump back when they find out how chapped your cheeks are. It's a physical manifestation of light, the waves come solid and you're in a daze to see what brings about the lightning like this. The set lamp mechanics are no friends of epileptics.
There's a definite relaxed chemistry between the three leads of Frederick Frankenstein (A.J. Holmes), Inga (Elizabeth Pawlowski) and Igor (Christopher Timson). More as long worn friends than people who suddenly come upon each other. At home as soon as the knocking on the door stops.
Holmes and Timson, brought together by long family lines of master and servant stumble and then fully embrace it in "Together Again." Artfully comparing their hands against the likes of other comedy duos such as Laurel & Hardy and peanut butter & jam. Timson you'd think had some Brit in him, so effortlessly his voice in caricature.
You know something's up in the Grand Hall of Castle Frankenstein with an isometric chair side table, not as straight as a normal table would be. The patriarchs colluding in song with "Join The Family Business" to right Young Frederick in his dismissive notions. There in Transylvania at first to settle up the scores and estate of his late great grandfather. It's deliberately all over the place until they come about with their collective monster, showing a mark of gory creation in what's probably six metres of tall and precarious prop walking.
Again we find ourselves losing traction in steering away from the family tradition. When they sing and dance like this, it's a rather compelling argument for following their footsteps. Holmes' speaking voice is a shrill mountain climber, setting it up to pitch and lob for a chorus. A clear and drastic shift in intonation. It's always nervous until he belts one out.
If you ever forget there are strobe lights, you won't soon be when you get another punch before and around the storms. It's kindly violent, even if it makes the stage vanish behind a chalk cloud for a few seconds.
The sexual innuendo in the songs and asides about trying to get inherendo are fast and sometimes a bit heavy, but expected from a Mel Brooks production. Pawlowski's innocent and sweet introduction with "Roll In The Hay" is stark against Frau Blucher's (Pat Sibley) retelling of her exploits with an elder statesman of the Frankenstein clan in "He Vas My Boyfriend". Swinging with lament and pride, the lyrics also cast light on some domestic abuse issues in their casual affair. They play the lines for the laughs it can squeeze out through wrapped fingers, but it's off again to not harp on that particular aspect of their relationship. Elizabeth (Lexie Dorsett) takes one of the final songs, "Deep Love" and flips her take over the earlier barrier implicit "Please Don't Touch Me" and really puts The Monster, now a man about town, in his place deep inside her.
The start of Irving Berlin's "Puttin' on the Ritz" is as cold and stiff as expected when The Monster (Rory Donovan) takes to belting out the title. Oh but then, we're in for a real treat of tap dance when the rhythm warms up a dead mouse. Nothing like watching a tap scene live, feeling the air click and clack at the metal taps on the shoes. That simple percussive scattering across the stage top and seeing the lightness of legs flicker about. Ankles snapping back and forth, the line shifting here and making circles of it all. And when you have a chorus, the sounds of the collective metal soles gracing the stage are in a sycophantic drum line of their own.
The whole cast and ensemble take part. No one is without their chattering shoes. Split up between The Monster and his solo with his shadow and the rest of the town, the divide is seamless, the activity cutting into itself with a natural grace. It's fun and all too short.
Young Frankenstein is a mirthful yet harrowing tale about coming to terms with your heritage. That accepting and embracing the family dynasty of a shady and questionable business is not without the trials and emotional distancing of rejecting it, of being ashamed of your familial past as others around you correct your waywardness and bring you back home. And bring your tap shoes. Everyone in Transylvania knows how to party with their feet.
Gone blind at the matinee performance on Saturday, 5 November 2011 at the Lexington Opera House. Putting it in for about two and a half hours with a 15 minute intermission.