Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

July 8, 2024

Review: Berkshire Theatre Group, “Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein”

Berkshire Theatre Group, Pittsfield, MA
through July 21, 2024
by Shera Cohen

“Funny” is one of the best adjectives to describe the talents of Mel Brooks. To be accurate, “raunchy funny” is à propos for “Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein” (“YF”) at Colonial Theatre.

The musical is essentially the mirror image of the movie version (1974) starring Gene Wilder. For those who have not yet seen the movie or video in any shape or form on various  electronic devises, then experiencing it live is almost better; sans Wilder, Madeline Kahn, Marty Feldman, et al.

Photo by David Dashiell & Caelan Carlough
Apparently, the original Frankenstein had some family members who begat offspring and one of these is Dr. Frederick Frankenstein; pronounced “Frank-en-stEEn”. Like his predecessor, Fred is a scientist whose specialty is study of the brain. For first-hand knowledge on the original Frankenstein, he must travel to Transylvania. Along the way, he meets a sexy assistant, a hunchback servant, and a seemingly prim housekeeper. The plot concerns the creation of another monster in the la-BOR-a-tory.  

The true stars of BTG’s production are the people who the audience does not see: the professionals on lighting, sound, scenic, and projection as well as director Gerry McIntyre who has assembled a wonderfully creative team with imagination and a sense for sheer fun.

Segments of the “Frankenstein” silent movie begin the entertainment. Soon coupled with lightning effects and thunderous sounds, the musical within the movie begins with screen credits, as if it was an actual 1910 cinema on the stage. The macabre echoes continue into the theatre’s lobby and entry.

“Clever” is the word to explain the video projections in each scene, especially those outdoors. Sepia stills or moving video backdrops help to accentuate each segment. Yes, there are the usual walls, bookcases, and stairs. Special to “YF” are the dark scrims, netting, and shadows, making everything on stage look bigger and spookier.

Unexpected from a comedy filled with ridiculous characters, each actor’s voice is near-flawless. All leads can boast Broadway credits. The accompanying 5-piece band sounds much bigger.

Nothing in “YF” is serious. Even the love stories have no dramatic or lovely songs. Instead, the most hilarious tunes (each sung by female soloists) are: “Roll in the Hay,” “He Was My Boyfriend,” and “Deep Love”.

There’s not a lot of dancing. Yet, McIntyre, who doubles as choreographer, lets his full cast have a ball “Puttin’ on The Ritz”. Is this scene important to the story? No. In fact, it’s rather inane. However, watching a reformed monster tap dance is a showstopper.

At this performance, the audience was a bit atypical from those who populate summer musicals. The group was younger. Had they heard of the 2000-year-old man? Or seen “Blazing Saddles”? Or like to laugh on a smoldering hot Saturday in a beautiful, air-conditioned theatre in Pittsfield? At any rate, there they were in droves. 
Note: Not recommended for young children.