Young Frankenstein will be running at Whitehorse’s Guild Hall from October 26–November 12
The Mel Brooks Musical Young Frankenstein, based on the book by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan, with music and lyrics by Mel Brooks, is coming to Whitehorse. The play will run at the Guild Hall from October 26 through November 12. The show features original direction and choreography by Susan Stroman and is directed by Brian Fidler, with musical direction by Scott Maynard, and choreography by Allyn Walton.
“Young Frankenstein, the musical, is a hilarious stage version of the popular Mel Brooks film from the seventies,” said Maynard. “The music is dense, intense, of the very highest standard, and there’s a lot of it.”
According to Maynard, the music came first in the rehearsal process, before any of the choreography or blocking. Part of Maynard’s job is to teach the music to the actors, but he also helps them build the stamina in their voices, as they’ll need to get through three months of rehearsal and then the show itself.
“We do a comprehensive vocal warm-up at the start of every rehearsal,” said Maynard. “The actors have had access to rehearsal tracks and a recording of the Broadway show, to help them learn as much as possible on their own, and I’ve also prepared some extra rehearsal tracks to help with some of the denser harmonies. We’ve changed the key of a couple of tunes, too, to better suit the voice of the person singing it.”
Another aspect of the show that started early was the set design, according to Fidler. By the time the cast were doing rehearsals, they were in a good spot with the music, and the bones of the set were already put together.
“Conversations between myself, the director, with all of the design teams—costumes, props, lights and sound—also began early and helped shape the direction of the production from day one,” Fidler said. “We began with the idea for Young Frankenstein by creating the look of a black-and-white movie on the stage. This concept presented the design team with many challenges that have helped shape the show. While we are not going as far as having all of our performers in cakey-white makeup, this idea of a black-and-white film onstage has been a wonderful challenge for all of the design team.”
The cast for this show is a large one for the Guild, with 14 people, including the ensemble, taking part in the production, according to Guild producer Odile Nelson. Nelson also speaks to the talents of the crew in transforming the space into what attendees will see later this month and next.
“The set is super inventive and multipurpose,” said Nelson. “Because of Guild’s small space, Brian and [the] set designer, Donald Watt; and head carpenter Al Loewen, have been very inventive in creating the many different locations for this Broadway musical.”
It’s not just the look of the show that is creative, though. For the audio components, which heavily lean on sound effects, Maynard was dead set on having as much as possible performed live, so the production brought on Andy Slade as accompanist.
“The score is quite challenging, even for someone of Andy’s calibre,” admitted Maynard. “I have also had to hack my way through the piano parts, to be able to accompany the singers and help with the choreo process. There are also a lot of sound effects, and we’ve brought on Hannah Mazurek to take care of this. Almost all of the sound effects will be performed live, as part of the show.”
Because of all the complex components of the stage show, the production was quite a feat to put together, and one that the cast and crew are excited to debut to live audiences, especially without having to worry about Covid restrictions that would have impacted the show not long ago.
“The show is very funny, and the music is excellent. The cast and the production team are very talented and have been working hard to bring this show to the audience,” said Maynard. “The music is not easy and there’s a lot of it. I’ve been joking that it uses all the notes, sometimes at the same time. There are so many moving parts, with props, costumes, lights, the set, etc., and knitting this all together is a challenge—but we have a very talented group of people working both on and behind the stage, to pull it together.”
Though the team at the Guild is looking ahead to the rest of their season, most of their excitement right now is focussed on this production and what it will bring back to the theatre.
“I’m excited for audiences to see Young Frankenstein,” said Fidler. “And then, following that, I’m pretty thrilled about the rest of the Guild Hall season and our return to larger cast sizes. Our next two productions, The Wolves and Ripcord, feature a very-young cast and an older cast, respectively. Most of all I’m excited to see larger crowds, familiar faces and new audience members back in the Guild Hall this year!” Young Frankenstein will run at the Guild Hall from October 26 through November 12. To learn more about the show and to find tickets, visit www.guildhall.ca/index.php.