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It’s alive! Palace Theater breathes life into ‘Young Frankenstein’

<p>Photo by DANIEL NATHANIEL</p><p>Frau Blücher (Justine Thompson) sings the agonies and the ecstasies of life with Frederick’s grandfather Victor in “He Vas My Boyfriend.”</p><p>Photo by DANIEL NATHANIEL</p><p>Frederick (Don Moody), Igor (Billy Shackley), Inga (Katherine Wilson) and villagers sing the glories of the “Transylvania Mania.”</p>

By JOHN BURNETT

Tribune-Herald staff writer

The stage of the Palace Theater will be transformed into Transylvania as the curtain rises tonight on “Young Frankenstein: The Musical.”

The Palace’s 12th annual fall musical production will run for three weekends, and is based on the 1974 Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder movie that spoofed the 1930s black-and-white Frankenstein films. At the helm is the Palace creative triumvirate of director Clay Callaway, music director Quack Moore and choreographer Lina Manning.

“It’s a fully interactive show,” Callaway said. “We’ve got sound effects from the sound board. We have live sound effects coming from the percussion session and we have sound effects that are integrated into the video projection. So we have to sort all that out and make it happen. It’s the biggest show that we’ve done here.”

The Palace production occurs at the same time as Aloha Performing Arts Company’s production of “Young Frankenstein” in Kona. Callaway described the simultaneous East and West Hawaii shows “a serendipitous happening that we’re just sort of rolling with.”

“The reality is that Jerry Tracy over there does a great job,” he said. “They have a whole different audience. A very small percentage of the audience comes over from there to the Hilo side and vice versa, unless they know somebody in the show.”

Don Moody, a local stage veteran who enthralled audiences last year with his portrayal of Pontius Pilate in the Palace’s “Jesus Christ Superstar,” plays Dr. Frederich von Frankenstein. Callaway called Moody, who is usually cast in character roles, “a wonderful actor.”

“It’s not an easy role to cast,” he said. “There has to be a comic element, but you’re the straight man — and he gets it. And Don is a steadfast and persistent student of the art. For me to provide him with an opportunity to be that lead, or that title character, is just a joy, because he has served my productions well, and now this production can serve his talent.”

Frankenstein has a fiancée, Elizabeth, played by Britten Traughber, and a comely assistant, Inga, played by Kait Wilson. Wilson, a University of Hawaii at Hilo performing arts major, was in the soul quartet in “Jesus Christ Superstar.” This is her first lead, and she called it “a different experience, very new.”

“The one thing I’ve noticed is when they do the chorus rehearsals, I’m sitting on the sidelines and it feels really weird,” she quipped.

“Kait is a great find,” Callaway said. “We had some others audition, but because of their vocal range they couldn’t hit the highest notes that were needed.”

The sinister old maid and keeper of the castle, Frau Blücher, is portrayed by Justine Thompson, who seems to have channeled the accent and delivery that Cloris Leachman used to great effect in the film.

“I grew up watching this movie, so to know that I could say those exact same lines that I loved as a kid is so cool,” Thompson said.

Billy Shackley plays Dr. Frankenstein’s hunchbacked assistant, Igor.

“I borrowed a little from Marty Feldman. I borrowed a lot from Jimmy Durante. And I borrowed a lot from whoever’s inside of me,” he said.

And in the role of the monster is Phill Russell, with a huge assist from make-up artist Bryan Furer. Russell, who’s played numerous villains, including Judas, said he is “perfecting the art of monsterism.”

“The monster is misunderstood,” he said. “It’s mostly the people from the town who are monsters, coming after the monster. They want blood. The monster just wants to be happy.”

The cast also includes: Scott Wuscher as Inspector Kemp; Rob Hunt as Harold, the blind hermit; Gene Gold as Mr. Hilltop; Arval Shipley as the ghost of Victor von Frankenstein; and Stephen Singletary as Ziggy, the village idiot.

Talent abounds in the chorus and dance corps, as well, with Simone Tincher-Lewis, Jason Hall, Kathy Frankovic, Dan Lindsay, Mayumi Long, Scott Kester, Emerson Aynessazian, Dee Adkins, Pedro Kaawaloa, Kealoha Tam, Norman Arancon, Jessica Dempsey, Alston Albarado, Samantha Saiki, Tanya Aynessazian and Stephen Bond.

Those who love the movie should also enjoy the musical, Callaway said.

“I’ve actually changed some of the lines in the musical back to what was in the movie because I didn’t like them and they didn’t fit to the ear,” he said. “There are certain things you’re used to if you’re a fan of the original movie, that for whatever reason, are missing from the musical — and that I wanted to hear.”

After tonight’s opening, the show continues Saturday and Oct. 11, 12, 18 and 19 at 7 p.m. with 2:30 p.m. Sunday matinees on Oct. 13 and 20. Tickets are on sale now, $15 advance and $20 day of show. The Palace box office is open 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday through Friday, or call 934-7010 during those hours.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

 

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