Manatee Players show features great cast, corny jokes

mclear@bradenton.comOctober 27, 2013 

Dewayne Barrett says that if you like "Young Frankenstein," the movie, you'll like "Young Frankenstein: The Musical."

Barrett directed the current Manatee Players staging of the Mel Brooks musical, so he should know. And just a couple of minutes into the show, you realize he's right.

A character talks about losing his one of his arms and one of his legs years before. The medical treatments, he says, were expensive it cost him "an arm and a leg."

That's the kind of obvious, vaudevillian comedy that Mel Brooks fans enjoy and expect, and the musical adaptation of Brooks' 1974 spoof is packed with that type of joke. And the movie's a classic, so obviously a lot of people love it.

The flip side of Barrett's statement, of course, is that if you don't like Brooks' baggy-pants style of humor, you probably won't like "Young Frankenstein: The Musical." It's has almost exactly the same plot, and most of the same jokes, as the film, and adds nothing but a lot of unmemorable songs.

Even if you don't like the material, though, you can't help but appreciate the Manatee Players' clever and glitzy production, and the work of a large cast that seems to be having a great time with the broad and silly show.

Brian F. Finnerty is fun, energetic and appealing in his Manatee Players debut as Frederick Frankenstein, the grandson of the famous Dr. Frankenstein who inherits his castle and carries on his work.

But it's Mark Netherly as Igor -- the role that will always be associated with Marty Feldman -- who gets the biggest laughs, thanks to his rubber face and hilariously spry movements.

And William E. Masuck turns in funny work as the hulking and befuddled Monster.

The ensemble work is great too, with nice harmony work and lively performances in the dance numbers, inventively choreographed by Barrett.

The production gets a huge boost from the work of Kirk Hughes, who designed the essentially abstract set and the projections that give it texture and definition. It's the first time the Manatee Players have exercised their new facility's potential for intricate projections, and Hughes makes the most of it.

But there's no getting around the fact that Brooks and writing partner Thomas Meehan -- who also collaborated on the much better musical "The Producers" -- are unexceptional songwriters. "Young Frankenstein" has 20 musical numbers and the only one that sticks with you is Irving Berlin's "Puttin' on the Ritz." The rest are bland and obvious, with clunky melodies and few amusing lyrics.

The Manatee Players cast and the off-stage artists do some great work and make "Young Frankenstein" palatable. But otherwise, this one's strictly for fans of Brooks' low-brow humor.

Details: Through Nov. 10 at the Manatee Performing Arts Center, 502 Third Ave, W., Bradenton. Show times are 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $26-$36 with discounts for teachers and students teachers. Call 941-748-5875 or go to www.manateeplayers.com.

Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-708-7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.

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