Theatre Baton Rouge gets ritzy with production of 'Young Frankenstein'

Puttin' on the play

Frau Blücher!

  • Wait for it … wait for it …

There it is, the horse whinny.

Kelly Martin can’t help laughing at her character’s signature line in “Young Frankenstein.” It happens when inquiries are made about her relationship to the first mad scientist who tried to build a monster.

“He vas my boyfriend!” she shouts in a heavy German accent. “There’s a whole song I sing about it in the musical.”

Theatre Baton Rouge will open the musical version of Mel Brooks’ film classic on Friday, March 14. All the favorites will be there, including Dr. Frederick Frankenstein, pronounced Fronkensteen, and his sidekick Igor — that’s Eye-gor.

And, of course, there’s Dr. Frankenstein’s lovely fiancee Elizabeth Benning, who won’t allow him to touch her, ahem, upper body. There’s a song about that, too.

“It’s bawdy,” Martin says. “But it’s Mel Brooks, and that’s what makes it fun. I would tell those who come to see it to be prepared to have a fun time at the theater that night.”

Brooks was enjoying the success of his 2001 musical “The Producers” when he created another based on his 1974 horror spoof “Young Frankenstein.”

The story opens in 1934 with the residents of Transylvania Heights celebrating the death of mad scientist Victor von Frankenstein. In New York, Frederick Frankenstein learns that he has inherited his grandfather’s castle, so he takes time off from his position as dean of Anatomy at the Johns, Miriam and Anthony Hopkins School of Medicine to resolve the property issue in Transylvania.

Frederick is ashamed of his grandfather’s reputation and tries to escape it by changing the pronunciation of his name. But it doesn’t take him long to join the family business, and he sets out to make a monster of his own.

“We’re having so much fun with this,” says Zac Thriffiley. “This show is so well put together, and it satirizes the whole sci-fi horror genre is such a great way.”

Thriffiley is playing the good doctor, a bucket-list role of sorts. Thriffiley is a fan of Brooks’ films, and, despite that he’s in his final semester at LSU, he knew he had to try out for this show.

“I’m graduating in May in psychology and English lit, so my schedule is full,” he says. “So, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to do this. I talked to Keith, and he said, ‘Go for it.’”

Keith Dixon is Theatre Baton Rouge’s managing artistic director and is the assistant director to director Kurt Hauschild in this production.

“Young Frankenstein” is Dixon’s second-to-last show for Theatre Baton Rouge before he moves to his new job as artistic director of the Spokane Civic Theatre in Spokane, Wash.

“This is really a bittersweet time for me,” Thriffiley says. “I’ll be going to graduate school at DePaul University after I graduate, so it’s probably my last production with Theatre Baton Rouge, and it’s my last production with Keith.”

But Thriffiley and his fellow cast members are having too much fun to be sad.

And that’s a plus, because some cast members, who don’t consider themselves singers, are taking on big numbers.

“I’ve been in ensembles before, but I’ve never sang a solo,” says Charlynn White, who is playing Elizabeth Benning. “And in this musical, I have three.”

White says she decided to channel Madeline Kahn, who starred in several Brooks films and was Elizabeth Benning in the 1974 film.

“She was so wonderful,” White says. “Her humor was so subtle, and though Elizabeth is not subtle, it was Madeline Kahn’s subtleness that made her so funny.”

Those familiar with the story know that Elizabeth eventually encounters the monster. He’s played by 6-foot-4-inch Lanc Parker, who grows to 6 feet 9 inches when he puts on the costume’s platform shoes.

“And it was a little unsettling when I walked out on stage in those shoes for the first time the other night,” Parker says. “I have to point my toes outward to keep my balance, and I have to stomp around in them.”

But stomping is part of the fun when the monster performs “Puttin’ on the Ritz” with his creator. And overseeing it all is Hauschild.

“This is my first time directing a main stage production,” he says. “Keith is called the assistant director, but we’re really co-directing. We’re like the Coen brothers — one of us will have an idea, then the other will have an idea that will make it that much better.”

  • CAST: Charlynn White, Elizabeth Benning; Kelly Martin, Frau Blucher; Zach Thriffiley, Dr. Frederick Frankenstein; Terry Byars, Hermit/Hilltop; Anthony Pierre, Igor; Marlo Dupre, Inga, Nicholas Moore, Inspector Hans Kempt; Lance Parker, The Monster; The Quartet: Ben Caldwell, Jeremy Downey, Joshua Johnson, Megan Payne; Phil Chenevert, Ziggy; Ensemble: Ben Caldwell, MaryKate Core, Jeremy Downey, Jennifer Dugas, John James, Joshua Johnson, Lee Kelly Jamie Leonard, Carole Moore, Nicholas Moore, Samantha Vicknair Murray, Megan Payne, Melissa Seidule, Natalie Sibille, Travis Williams.
  • DIRECTORS: Kurth Hauschild, Keith Dixon.