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Young Frankenstein as Presented by Tipperary Musical Society

Young Frankenstein as presented by Tipperary MS

Date of Adjudicated Performance: Wednesday 14th February 2024.

As musical comedies go, Young Frankenstein is not for the faint-hearted nor the prudish, for it combines Mary Shelley’s wonderful horror story with Mel Brook’s somewhat irreverent sense of humour. Sex, it has to be said, is frequently and fairly graphically referenced throughout the show, albeit in a hilarious manner, and no better man to be responsible for guiding this production onto the stage than director Paul Norton, who is not one to shy away from anything controversial. I am at a loss to imagine how one could present a sanitized version of this show, but in Paul’s hands, that was never going to be an issue.

What he did present us with was a well-thought out, well-rehearsed, beautifully prepared piece of irreverence, with lots of personal touches thrown in along the way. Having a good set with added projections was a great bonus. The screens were used most effectively in the journey through the woods, where pantomime horses pulled a hay-rick along the road of a moving forest landscape. There was great detail too in the laboratory scenes, with lots of fancy looking electrical switches, a wonderful rising platform, and good technical effects. The Puttin’ on the Ritz sequence was another strong technical achievement, very cleverly using a gauze and back lighting. Under Stage Manager, Alma Quinn, the stage crew worked hard to limit the blackouts during scene changes and did well, given the amount of movement required. The walk-through wall, cut in the shape of the Monster when he enters the Hermits cabin was another piece of clever and witty creation.

What also contributed to the success of this production was an unexpected excellent musical score, full of good choruses, varied styles and rhythms, and wonderful orchestrations that the very accomplished orchestra, under Musical Director, Mary Rose McNally, really got their teeth into. Puttin’ on the Ritz was the only very familiar number, but there were great comedy songs, a smattering of G&S-ish patter, and village choruses reminiscent of Beauty and the Beast.

The chorus were very strong in bringing all their numbers to life, true in their harmonies and crystal clear with their lyrics. Likewise, the principals were obviously very well prepared musically, as several of their numbers were very demanding. The musical balance of each number was very good and tone and tempi always seemed appropriate in what was a musical feast.

That most of the choral pieces were performed while negotiating Stephanie Browne’s energetic dance routines was a tribute to the determination of the performers. Stephanie did a great job of creating routines that captured the moment; strong and driven when the villagers were in pursuit of the monster, light and airy when they were singing happy songs, but without question, the number of the show was the combination of comedy, technology and terpsichorean treasure that was Puttin’ on the Ritz.

But the real success of this show was the faith that the cast put in their director. Paul Norton asked them for some pretty outrageous behavior, some very inelegant poses and positions and some frightfully crass gestures and gesticulations, and they did not disappoint him. The show succeeded because everyone seemed to be singing off the same song sheet. There were one or two silent moments when some of the close-up, visual gags from the movie did not have quite the same comedic impact when played out on stage, but they were few and far between.

As for the performances, Kevin Reade showed that he had the acting, the comedy, the fancy footwork, and the singing required to successfully play the demanding central role of Dr. Fredrick von Frankenstein. With very good facial expression, he related the transition from denial of his family name to a crazed reawakening of his Grandfathers genes, as he progressed through the series of events. His vocal delivery was very strong, with perfect diction to allow the wordy patter-style numbers to be clearly understood.

Emmet Donlan got great physical comedy out of the role of Igor, stooped and awkward, but always light on his feet. His Vocals were consistently good, and he pointed his verbal comedy very effectively. His relationship with Frankenstein was particularly strong.

The highlight of a wonderful outing from Emma Sunderland, as Inga, was her vocally brilliant yodeling, but it was her willingness to be flamboyantly unrestrained in her lust-laden encounters with Frankenstein that brought out the strength of her acting and comedy. It is not a comment I would make often, but her flexibility was certainly a benefit to this excellent performance.

And talking of excellence, perhaps the comedic performance of the night came from Deirdre Ryan as Frau Blücher. Both physically and verbally, she inhabited her character, making the most of every look and every gesture, and showing a great understanding of comedic timing, and if all that was not enough, her rendition of He Vas My Boyfriend was hilarious and show-stopping.

Rachael Breen brought an arrogance and heaps of comical vanity to the character of Elizabeth Benning. Please Don’t Touch Me and Deep Love were delivered with panache, but perhaps her finest comedic moments came with her commitment to being ravished by the Monster.

Adam Skeffington had great fun with the role of the Monster, grunting and moaning through his scenes. His gait and stature were effective and with his built-up boots, effective costume, and excellent make-up, he certainly made the required impression, but it was a brilliantly delivered Puttin’ on the Ritz that was the highlight of his performance.

Derek Ryan used his wealth of experience to make the most of the physical comedy of Inspector Kemp, with his effective limp and well-timed business with his prosthetic arm. His stature combined with his vocal gravitas made him the perfect authoritative figure among the villagers.

James O’Donovan created a gentle yet comedic Hermit, secure in the delivery of his delightfully funny Please Send Me Someone and Eimhin O’Meara displayed an appropriate befuddled vacancy in portraying village idiot, Ziggy.

Last but not least, Cole Flanagan impressed greatly as Victor von Frankenstein, leading the mad scientists with a strong voice and great dance ability in Join the Family Business.

As mentioned, the gauze lighting was excellent, as was the use of projections, and for the most part, general lighting was very atmospheric and appealing with good variations in colour and tone. Only occasionally were pieces of principal action muted by low light level, but overall, very well done. The coordination of the many sound effects was crisp and assured, and levels were well maintained throughout the show. Cueing of radio mics was most satisfactory, with only a rare grumbling mic, most likely caused by costume disruption during the ‘frolicking’ scenes.

Combined with these technical achievements, the visuals for the show were top-notch, with universally excellent costumes, from scientists to villagers to a great display of principal outfits that were totally appropriate to the character of each individual. More impressive still were the wigs and make-up, with the monster looking very impressive, and the usually

elegant and demure Deirdre Ryan being hideously transformed into something sinister and unappealing, which richly enhanced her character. Hats off to the props team too, who ensured that the vast array of props and furniture were appropriate to the era.

I suppose when you combine the comedy genius of Mel Brooks with the devil-may-care attitude of Director, Paul Norton, you should not be at all surprised if the result is something that walks the tightrope between sanity and insanity. On this occasion, the outcome was an insanely funny, albeit extremely risqué, piece of mischievous, musical magic, and it was a pleasure to attend and enjoy the efforts of all concerned in the performance and production.

Peter Kennedy

Gilbert Adjudicator 2023 / 2024

Some photos kindly shared by the society - Photos by William O'Brien


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