It’s aliiiiiive! - a phrase used by Dr Frankenstein in the show, but could easily be describing the theatre scene in Norwich. For with Young Frankenstein, Threshold Theatre has once again proved what incredible talent there is in the amateur ranks around these parts.
This musical production is based on the Mel Brooks movie of the same name, which itself is a ridiculously funny send-up of classic horror movies. The stage version is just as hilarious, but what really makes it comes alive is the comic stylings of the cast.
The plot, in case it matters, concerns Frederick Frankenstein (Joseph Betts) who is a lecturer at a New York medical school. He receives a letter out of the blue informing him that he has inherited his family’s estate in Transylvania, so he travels there to settle the estate, leaving his fiancée, Elizabeth (Rebecca Jillings), behind.
Once there, he is met by the family’s side-splittingly strange servant, Igor (James Bell), who has taken the liberty of hiring an assistant for the doctor in the form of Inga (Emily Sidnell). Completing the awesome Transylvanian foursome is housekeeper Frau Blücher (neigh) played by Rowena Croston-Clegg.
Rather than simply settling the estate, Dr Frankenstein is encouraged to continue his grandfather’s work in re-animating the dead, and eventually unleashes hysterical havoc by raising a monster from the grave, played by Ben Woodward.
Everyone in the cast was superb, with Joseph Betts leading the line with confidence in a role absolutely made for his energy onstage. Emily Sidnell and Rebecca Jillings both showed off some breath-taking vocals in their respective numbers as well as superb comedic skill. Ben Woodward was incredible as the monster, displaying a wonderful physicality, alongside some bizarrely nimble dancing and even a brief glimpse of his outstanding vocal ability. Rowena Croston-Clegg had slightly less to work with than the others, but showed her class as a comedic actor and vocalist in arguably one of the weakest songs in the show (He Vas My Boyfriend).
Stealing the show for me though was James Bell as the madcap Igor. James made the most of his time on stage, putting his body completely on the line to produce a startlingly brilliant and riotous demonstration of physical theatre, alongside being an all-rounder in terms of performance.
The principal cast were more than matched though by those in more minor roles, with the standouts being Leo Oakley as Inspector Hans Kemp, and an unforgettable cameo from Zac Sowter as the lonely and blind Harold the Hermit.
The choreography was impressively tight throughout, and never more so than in the big ensemble number, Puttin’ On the Ritz (which, for me, was the highlight of the show). The set was unfussy but effective and helped to keep the action flowing as we quickly flitted between rooms in the Transylvanian mansion or the village.
Director Dan Smith and his team should be thoroughly proud of this wonderful monster of a production they’ve created, and I’m so pleased that I was able to see it come to life. Young Frankenstein continues until 3 June at Norwich Theatre Playhouse