Young Frankenstein is a sure-fire crowd pleaser

Executive Director of PhillyGayCalendar

The Walnut Street Theatre is now presenting Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein until October 20.

This Young Frankenstein is a musical retelling of the hit 1974 film with Book by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan, with Music and Lyrics by Mel Brooks.

Young Frankenstein was cast from strength, employing several beloved veterans of the house and Philadelphia in general. In the title role, Ben Dibble was the young doctor Frankenstein, Mr. Dibble has played in 22 roles at the Walnut, but many of our readers will no doubt remember him as the omnivorously bisexual, hot-pants-wearing dad from Fun Home. In Young Frankenstein, Dibble is a tousle-haired heterosexual who rather graphically in this production cavorts in the hay (literally), culminating in coitus on the laboratory bench with lab assistant Inga, lusciously played by Alanna J. Smith, another house favorite actor. This all happened where the cadaver was brought to life shortly before. Philadelphia legend Mary Martello was Frau Blucher who exceeded even Mr. Dibble’s 22 roles with her 30. Her Frau Blucher proved to be one of the great comedic characters in the musical. She brought the house down with her rendition of “He Vas My Boyfriend.” Martello channeled Marlene Dietrich, Tallulah Bankhead, and a soupcon of Ethel Merman thrown in for good measure, all while showing off her legs. Walnut Street favorite Fran Prisco took on a double header: Inspector Kemp and The Hermit, giving two wonderful performances to much audience acclaim. Casey Elizabeth Gill’s Elizabeth Benning, Dr. Frankenstein’s fiancée, was vivaciously coquettish and icily prudish simultaneously. Her shining moment was the showpiece, “Please Don’t Touch Me.” Igor, the role made famous by the late, great Marty Feldman, was assumed with comedic relish by Luke Bradt.

Production values were stellar. Every complex element worked like clockwork. The rather large orchestra was thrillingly led by conductor Chris Burcheri at the piano. Scenery and lighting were excellently deployed by Robert Kovach and Charlie Morrison. Sound was excellently balanced by Ed Chapman, and the costumes by Mary Folino were evocative and provocative, as required.

The horses were the most interesting stylized realization since Equus. Choreography was by Mary Jane Houdina. Charles Abbott directed this sprawling cast of characters.

Part of being an audience member is the occasional likelihood that there will be memorable moments not necessarily welcomed during the performance. Nearby audience members often spoke in loud, conversational tones while the actors spoke from the stage. The same couple often stroked their cell phones, offering brilliant flashes of distraction in the darkened house. As they often say, common sense isn’t all that common. Be considerate.

Young Frankenstein opens the Walnut Street Theatre’s season. The theatre was founded in 1809. Think about that. Alexander Hamilton was shot and killed in 1804. Indeed, the Walnut Street Theatre is one of Philadelphia’s great cultural treasures which will soon be even greater in the coming years. Plans are afoot to add a smaller stage in-the-round, while greatly expanding its footprint on Walnut Street. For more information on subscribing, purchasing tickets, or scheduling, visit .

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