“Young Frankenstein” production provides Halloween fun

The cast of "Young Frankenstein - The Musical" surrounds the titular Doctor Frankenstein (center), played by Sean Gilbert. The production's first performance is at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 23 at the Ramsdell Theatre. Additional performances at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 24, Oct. 30 and 31 and at 2 p.m. on Oct. 25 and Nov. 1. (Sean Bradley/News Advocate)

The cast of “Young Frankenstein – The Musical” surrounds the titular Doctor Frankenstein (center), played by Sean Gilbert. The production’s first performance is at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 23 at the Ramsdell Theatre. Additional performances at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 24, Oct. 30 and 31 and at 2 p.m. on Oct. 25 and Nov. 1. (Sean Bradley/News Advocate)

MANISTEE — Throughout most of “Young Frankenstein – The Musical” — which premieres at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 23 at the Ramsdell Theatre — the famous monster growls and moans while making silly faces.

But, that doesn’t mean the character, played by Jeremy Engwall, doesn’t have a small role in the production, which is for mature audiences.

“As far as stage movement and physical acting, it’s a huge role,” Engwall said. “It’s a lot in expression. It’s a lot in facial expression. It’s a lot of how position my body, and how I react.”

Adopted for the stage from Mel Brooks’ titular film, the production tells the story of the grandson of the infamous Victor Frankenstein, Frederick Frankenstein (which he pronounces “Fronk-en-steen”), who inherits his family’s estate in Transylvania. With the help of hunchback sidekick Igor and his leggy lab assistant Inga, Frederick finds himself in the mad scientist shoes of his ancestors. “It’s alive!” he exclaims as he brings to life a creature to rival his grandfather’s. Eventually, the monster escapes and hilarity continuously abounds.

Engwall said Jamie Foxx’s performance as Ray Charles in the 2004 film, “Ray,” was a guide for his respective role in the production by the Manistee Civic Players.

“You never see his eyes but he has to create this amazing role, and you’ll see in actors so much is done with the eyes,” Engwall said. “It’s so ironic that he, as an actor, had to basically take on a handicap. In this way, I can’t communicate through words or through dialogue. I have to communicate everything known through body language and facial expression.”

Sean Gilbert, who plays the lead role of Doctor Frederick Frankenstein, said the emotions he portrays are wide ranging.

“It’s kind of all over the place,” Gilbert said. “Every scene, you get a little bit of everything and it can switch on the fly sometimes with what I have to do.”

Having done plays in Manistee and Ludington, he said the production has been more difficult than others he’s done.

“Every show I’ve worked on kind of has that little struggle you get through but this one’s been more intense probably than most of the other ones I’ve done, as far as you kind of do it all at once,” Gilbert said. “We learned a little bit of music, a little bit of dance but then we kind of mash it together instantly.”

Director Jackie Karnisz said rehearsal of the production has included learning dialogue, dance and music all at the same time.

“It’s coming together earlier than it normally does,” Karnisz said.

She said input for the production has come from many different people.

“We’ve got a few people working with costumes. That has been challenging because in the musical, we have costumes from back in the 30’s that people are supposed to be dressed as Romanians,” she said. “You’ve got some scenes where people are supposed to be in New York City and there’s another scene where you’ve got tap dancers.”

Audiences can expect something a bit different at the beginning of the show, Karnisz said.

“Musically, I think audiences will be very impressed and, if they liked the movie, they’re going to love the musical,” she said. “Personally, I think the musical is funnier because of the songs. The lyrics to the songs are hilarious.”

The production’s first performance is 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 23 at the Ramsdell Theatre in Manistee with additional performances at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 24, Oct. 30 and 31 and at 2 p.m. on Oct. 25 and Nov. 1.

There is a cost for admission.

Tickets can be ordered in advance by calling MyNorth Tickets at 1-800-836-0717 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., online at www.manisteecivicplayers.org, or in person at the Ramsdell box office beginning at 12 p.m. on Oct. 22.

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Posted by Sean Bradley

Sean is the city and cops and courts reporter for the News Advocate, he also is in charge of the entertainment and Reasons to Celebrate pages. He can be reached at (231) 398-3109 or sbradley@pioneergroup.com.

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