Musical ‘Young Frankenstein’ takes to the stage Downriver

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Photo by Linus Babcock
Michele Devins (left) of Southgate plays Frau Blucher, with Leo Babcock of Saline as Dr. Frederick Frankenstein, Carolyn Sohoza of Allen Park as Inga and Michael Gravame of Sterling Heights as Igor in the Downriver Actors Guild production of “Young Frankenstein – The New Mel Brooks Musical.” The show runs for two weekends, Nov. 8 to 17 at Out of the Box Theater in Wyandotte.

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By SUE SUCHYTA
The Downriver Actors Guild presents “Young Frankenstein – The New Mel Brooks Musical” at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 8, 9, 15 and 16, and 3 p.m. Nov. 10 and 17 at Out of the Box Theatre, 1165 Ford Ave. in Wyandotte.

Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for students and seniors. For more information call 313-303-5269 or go to www.downriveractorsguild.net.

Lucinda Chavez of Allen Park is directing the show, with tap choreography by Christopher Chavez and other choreography by Debbie Aue of Taylor. Peggy Partrich of Taylor is producing the show.

For Lucinda Chavez, the show has been a family affair: her son Christopher, 20, choreographed the tap number, set to Irving Berlin’s “Puttin’ on the Ritz,” while her daughter Kayla, 13, is dancing in the ensemble.

Chavez said she expects that baby boomers who laughed at the humor in the Mel Brooks “Young Frankenstein” movie will enjoy the humor in the stage musical as well.

“In the songs themselves there is a lot of humor,” Chavez said, “whereas in the movie there was no music. So it is just an extension of the humor in the movie, in song.”

She said she has a seasoned cast and very talented leads, and although DAG is doing “Young Frankenstein” at the same time neighboring Southgate Community Players are doing “Les Miserables,” she said there is plenty of talent to go around Downriver.

“I don’t consider it a competition because the shows are so different,” she said. “You’re going to have people that are going to be geared toward ‘Les Miz,’ but just because it’s a more serious operatic type show, as opposed to a light-hearted, character-funny musical.”

She said she is very happy with her cast, and she predicts that audiences, especially the ones who like Brooks’ humor, will be laughing the entire time.

“I am anticipating that a lot of the audience members will be saying the lines in their head,” Chavez said, “because it’s pretty much the same lines that are in the movie – plus music. There probably will not be any surprises, but that is OK. They will be laughing at the situations and the characters themselves and enjoying the music.”

Aue, who directed the non-tap numbers, said the musical has all the comedy that the movie has and then some, with the musical numbers built around the themes of particular scenes, adding to the comic elements of the show.

“It’s very funny, very funny,” Aue said. “(It is) definitely adult content, but very funny.”

She said the choreography is silly, with some traditional Broadway style numbers mixed in with humorous hand gestures, like those symbolizing bats, to give it a Transylvanian feel, with German and European style dancing.

She said the tap number that Christopher Chavez choreographed to “Puttin’ on the Ritz” is a very difficult number, a traditional Broadway tap number, with eight ensemble tappers, the Monster himself, and a shadow dancer.

She said the song and dance number, “Please Don’t Touch Me,” which has adult content and is a spoof on society’s restrictions against premarital physical relationships, is sung by Dr. Frankenstein’s New York City fiancé before he leaves for Europe.

“She’s basically singing about all the things her fiancé can do to her as long as it is in his head and not physically happening,” Aue said. “And so it’s very funny. And we accentuate the words with some hand gestures and body movements within the dance that make it even funnier.”

She said, “Roll in the Hay” is one of the funniest songs in the show, and yodeling adds to the humor – especially the pace of the yodeling.

“Again, so much of the humor, especially the sexual humor, is implied,” Aue said. “Nothing is really in your face. It is all kind of an implied format. There are not people actually doing what they are singing about, but you definitely get the message.”

She said the show is fine for high school students, and the stage show is not more risqué than the movie.

“It’s very funny, and we have such a talented cast,” Aue said.

Leo Babcock, of Saline, who plays the lead, Dr. Frankenstein, stepped into the role when the original actor, Leo McMaster, suffered a serious knee injury when playing soccer with his young son.

Babcock said he has always been a Brooks fan, and he loved the stage play “The Producers” and enjoyed the movie version of “Young Frankenstein,” so the 45-minute drive each way to rehearsal is worthwhile.

He said his role is very dynamic and changes a lot.

“He’s very soft-spoken at times, and then just nutty and ‘Ah – he’s alive!’ – that kind of thing,” Babcock said. “So there is a whole lot of variation. That is fun.”

In addition to Babcock, the cast includes Tony Primeau of Southgate as the Monster, Michael Gravame of Sterling Heights as Igor, Carolyn Sohoza of Allen Park as Inga and Leah Paige Cooley of Lincoln Park as Elizabeth Benning, Frankenstein’s stateside fiancé.

Michele Devins of Southgate plays Frau Blucher, with Jay Carter of Taylor as Inspector Hans Kemp, Rob Eagal of Trenton as the Blind Hermit, Paul Primeau of Brownstown Township as Dr. Victor von Frankenstein and Raymond Carter of Taylor as Ziggy.

The ensemble includes tappers, dancers and character roles. Those only tapping in “Putting on the Ritz” include Lara Keathley of Southgate and Andrea Sevonty of Dearborn. Ensemble dancers who also tap include Kayla Chavez of Allen Park; Alana Hubbard of Dearborn Heights; Taylor residents Kayla Nagy, Jessalyn Sturm and Mitchell Sturm; and Michael Suchyta of Dearborn. Additional ensemble dancers not tapping include Jenna Gadille of South Rockwood and David McDonald of Taylor.

Others in the ensemble include Taylor residents Ashley Novelo, Eleanor Smith and Aue; Charlene Bauer of Woodhaven; Loretta Bullock of Southgate; Craig Carrico Sr. of Detroit; Melissa Foster of Dearborn; Jami Mullins of Trenton; and Brianne Rainey of Brownstown Township.

MAGENTA GIRAFFE THEATRE COMPANY PRESENTS SHAW’S ‘ST. JOAN’
The Magenta Giraffe Theatre Company, in the Abreact Performance Space, 1301 W. Lafayette in Detroit, presents George Bernard Shaw’s “St. Joan,” with an adaptation and direction by Matthew Turner Shelton.

The show, which opened Oct. 18, runs weekends through Nov. 9. For tickets or more information call 313-408-7269 or go to www.magentagiraffe.org.

Shelton sees parallels with “St. Joan” and Detroit’s current search for effective leadership.

“I want to present a classical piece that is not only contemporary in subject matter,” Shelton said, “but also appeals to anyone committed to the ongoing battle to maintain historical Detroit, and the growth of its artistic community.”

Shaw said in his epic preface to “Saint Joan,” “Joan was born an illiterate peasant. Yet, she understood the political and military situation in France much better than most of our newspaper fed university women-graduates understand the corresponding situation of their own country today.”

Shaw illustrates how experience – not analysis – teaches about poverty and desperation. As a theater, Magenta Giraffe explores the human condition through new and inventive works from this perspective, as well as keeping local artists interested in Detroit as a soundboard for original voices.

Dearborn resident Lauren Montgomery is the show’s costumer.

The cast includes Dax Anderson of Hamtramck, Patrick O’Connor Cronin of Bloomfield Hills, Jonathan Davidson of Detroit, Keith Kalinowski of Ypsilanti, Michael Lopetrone of Ferndale and Allison Megroet of Berkley.

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