Look. I know this time of year can be a little contentious. There are always some people ready to throw hot sun to the wind and proclaim Sept. 1 the start of Halloween, and there are other people still mourning the end of monsoon season who just need a gall-dang minute, okay? It feels heightened this year, with everyone still processing the weirdness of the last year and a half. Some are ready to throw it in the trash and move on to bigger, better, spookier things. Some are firmly convinced it’s still March 2020.
All this to say, no matter where you stand on the Great Gourd Debate, your soul could surely benefit from a little bit of the Gaslight Theatre’s signature silly medicine. Ready for Halloween? Then you’ll be pleased to know that they’re currently showing a musical rendition of Frankenstein, written and directed by Peter Van Slyke. Trying to hold on to summer? There are monsoons happening throughout the entire show. Plus, you can order a root beer float or something else that tastes like summer.
Frankenstein features several of the theatre’s classic trademarks: a strong ensemble cast, impressive sets and special effects, show-stopping musical numbers, and the occasional instance of a cast member visibly holding back laughter at something that’s happening on stage.
The show is set in Frankenstein’s castle, in the land of Bratwurstlandia. Victor Frankenstein (son of the original Dr. Frankenstein) has returned to his family homestead with his fiancée, thee beautiful Elisabeth (trust me, she was a “thee,” sort of woman, not a “the.”) He’s hit with the hard-to-swallow news that most of the townspeople don’t want to set foot in or near his late father’s estate, because they all obviously have PTSD from the time he unleashed a terrifying monster on the town.
When he also learns that Frankenstein’s monster was never actually destroyed, he has to decide: Will he carry on his father’s legacy and bring Frankenstein’s monster (the excellently cast David Fanning) back to life again? Or will he, like, consider the feelings of his fragile, faint-prone fiancée and focus on their upcoming wedding? (Hint: the title of the play is not Fiancée!)
Now, you might not have thought to call all of this nonsense “hanky panky,” but when police inspector Lt. Klemp comes on the scene, he starts calling it “hanky panky” and then you realize that that’s exactly what you should be calling it. David Orley’s portrayal of a bumbling police officer—which I feel reasonably confident was at least influenced, even if subconsciously, by the walrus from the “Walrus and the Carpenter” scene in Alice in Wonderland—is a highlight of the show. So, too, is a hilarious parody of the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive” called “He’s Alive!” “Ahh! Ahh! Ahh! Ahh! He’s aliiiiiive!” Brilliant stuff.
Delightful details abound: There’s the fact that Hans, an Igor-type character played by Mike Yarema, speaks with an inexplicably Brooklyn accent. There’s Heather Stricker as Elisabeth, patiently waiting to finish fainting until someone gets her a pillow for her head to land on. There are outstanding effects to portray everything from well-timed lightning to angry mobs to a big, fancy laser. There’s–and hey, I’ll just come out and say it–a hilarious murder scene.
This is a show about being an outcast, about the impression a little bit of kindness can leave. About one love story transforming into another, and about, as the cast often refrained, “LIFE ITSELFFFFF!” And of course, it’s about a big, goofy, singing, dancing monster who will crack you up.
Frankenstein is followed by the Gaslight’s Late Show Olio, starring Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon, with special guest stars like Tiny Tim, Bette Midler and the Broadway cast of Hair. It’s a cherry on top of a night full of laughs.
Frankenstein is showing Tuesdays through Sundays through Nov. 7 at the Gaslight Theatre, 7010 E. Broadway Blvd. Tickets for the family-friendly show are $23.95, with discounts available for groups, students, seniors, military, first responders and children 2-12. Reservations are required.