“We have been doing a classical musical in the January/February slot, but it gets dark at 5, it’s winter and cold, and that audience sometimes doesn’t like going out,” director Mark Minnick of Toby’s Dinner Theatre said. “We thought, ‘let’s try a show that’s a little more edgy.’”
They found exactly what they were looking for in the Mel Brooks musical Young Frankenstein.
Back in 2001, after the rousing success of The Producers on Broadway, Mel Brooks and his producing partners went hunting for another of his legendary comedies to transform from screen to stage and decided to take a crack at Young Frankenstein.
Based on the 1974 movie written by Brooks and Gene Wilder, and directed by Brooks, the Frankenstein parody has long been considered one of Brooks’ best films and most popular. For the musical, Brooks teamed with his Producers’ co-writer Thomas Meehan on the book, wrote the music himself, Susan Stroman directed and the show launched on Broadway at the end of 2007.
Although it had mixed reviews and couldn’t match the Producers’ success, it still managed to hold on for almost 500 performances and is currently running on the West End, once again directed by Stroman.
Minnick first saw Young Frankenstein in 2008 during its Broadway run. He enjoyed it, but felt it was a bit overproduced.
“What we thought would really work for this show at Toby’s is the intimacy of our space. We don’t need to overproduce it and we can follow the story and humor. I think we’ve come up with something smart and slick,” he said of the musical which has just opened at Toby’s Dinner Theatre of Columbia.
“I love Mel Brooks and I think this show is funny and something that I think a lot of people didn’t expect we would do,” Minnick says. “We can’t get titles like Hamilton and Wicked right now, so we need to find a title or two that will intrigue those who don’t go to theater all the time.”
The story follows young Dr. Frankenstein and Igor as they attempt to create a monster, but face plenty of scary and hilarious complications along the way.
“It’s very close to the movie and all the characters are there,” he says. “We don’t try to imitate the characters but we do pay tribute to them and are in the same world of what people would expect. A lot of the songs come out of the one-liners often quoted by fans of the movie.”
That includes popular numbers such as “He Vas My Boyfriend” and “Roll in the Hay,” “The Transylvania Mania” and an Act 2 scene stealing number “Puttin’ on the Ritz.”
“What I have enjoyed about working on the show is what the cast has brought to the rehearsal process,” Minnick says. “A Mel Brooks comedy has to be delivered a certain way; there’s definitely a style and rhythm to his comedy, and I really believe we have nailed that.”
Toby’s Dinner Theatre of Columbia
closes March 11, 2018
Details and tickets
“We have a lot of familiar faces that our Toby’s audiences love, but we have a lot of new talent as well,” Minnick says. Young Frankenstein stars Jeffrey Shankle as Dr. Frederick Frankenstein, David James as Igor, Tess Rohan as Frau Blucher, Louisa Tringali as Inga and Christopher Kabara as the Monster. Rounding out the cast are Alicia Osborn as Elizabeth, David Reynolds as Inspector Kemp, Robert Biedermann 125 as the Hermit, Justin Calhoun as Victor and an ensemble of David Singleton, Coby Kay Callahan, Elizabeth Rayca, Heather Marie Beck, Mary Kate Brouillet, Rachel Kemp, Haley Wells, Gregory Banks, Ariel Messeca, Andrew Overton, Brook Urquhart, Brandon Bedore and Jamie Pasquinelli.
“Jeffrey and David are two very reliable and popular Toby’s performers. In the female roles, Tess is back for the first time in 10 years, Louisa has only done one show with us, and Alicia is fresh off the Mama Mia tour. We’re very excited about this cast.”
Minnick has helmed numerous productions at Toby’s and has served as choreographer for many as well, often taking on both roles. Some of his past productions serving in both capacities include Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Beauty and the Beast, Showboat and Peter Pan.
He’s a seven-time Helen Hayes Award nominee—six for choreography, and one for direction—and took home the 2015 award for Best Choreography for Monty Python’s Spamalot.
At Toby’s Dinner Theatre the evening starts two hours early for dinner. To welcome this monster musical, Toby’s pre-show buffet features Monster Mashed Potatoes, Spinach Phunque and Abby Normal Brain Loaf. The busy actors provide table service, so you may be ordering drinks from the Monster or Igor.