The Center for the Arts will present the Mel Brooks musical comedy Young Frankenstein Oct. 14–30. The cast is dedicating their performance to the memory of the co-creator and star of the original 1974 film, Gene Wilder.
On Aug. 29, when Gene Wilder’s death was announced, the cast and crew of The Center for the Arts’ production of Young Frankenstein felt a personal connection, since they were in the middle of rehearsing one of Wilder’s greatest scripts. Patrick Kramer, who is portraying the same role that Wilder made famous—Fredrick Frankenstein—was upset when he heard the news.
“Mr. Wilder was such an influence on me as a young performer. The man’s brilliance and dedication to his craft places him among the upper echelon of comedic geniuses,” said Kramer. “As I continue down my own Young Frankenstein path I will hold his spirit in my heart and dedicate my performance to his own. I know I will never be close to his brilliance; I just want to honor him.”
Kramer has keenly felt Mr. Wilder’s influence throughout his rehearsal process, working well known gags and delivering their punch lines with the comic timing he learned from watching him in the movies.
“Gene was such an amazing straight man on camera,” he explained in a recent interview, “that they were able to pick up on every little nuance . . . even the slightest movement or tic could change a moment. It was brilliant,” said Kramer. “Mel Brooks just let him wing it and he worked off the company of actors in the film so well. To be able to create that visceral, instantaneous moment with your fellow actors—it’s a real gift and it’s beautiful to watch. I want to create that the way he did.”
The award winning film and the musical are affectionate parodies of the classic horror film genre, in particular the various film adaptations of Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein produced by Universal in the 1930s. The story is about a young neurosurgeon, Fredrick Frankenstein (he pronounces it Fronkenstein), who inherits the castle of his grandfather, the famous Dr. Victor von Frankenstein. In the castle he finds a funny hunchback called Igor, a pretty lab assistant named Inga and the old housekeeper, Frau Blucher. Young Frankenstein does not believe in the work of his grandfather, but when he discovers the book where the mad doctor described his reanimation experiment, he suddenly changes his mind and creates a monster . . . who can sing and dance. The show is full of comic sequences and lively production numbers including, “The Transylvania Mania” and of course the iconic “Putting On the Ritz.”
The show is being directed by Renee Robinson, whose work has been enjoyed for several years by patrons of the Center.
Tickets can be purchased at boroarts.org, by calling (615) 904-ARTS, or by stopping by the Center’s box office at 110 W. College St. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and at 2 p.m. on Sundays, Oct. 14–30.