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Monday, June 23, 2014

Great Fun in Vermont at Saint Michael’s Playhouse's 'Mel Brook's Young Frankenstein'

We visited the Burlington area of Vermont this past week home of the handsome and comfortable Saint Michael’s Playhouse. The Playhouse, located on the campus of Saint Michael’s College, is an Actors’ Equity Association theater company. The Producing Artistic Director Chuck Tobin kindly invited us to see the Saturday night performance of Mel Brook's Young Frankenstein. (June 7 – 28, 2014).

Young Frankenstein features a book by three-time Tony Award-winner Mel Brooks and three-time Tony Award-winner Thomas Meehan and music and lyrics by Brooks. Young Frankenstein is directed by Keith Andrews with music direction by Thomas Cleary. Based on the Oscar-nominated smash hit 1974 film, Young Frankenstein is the wickedly inspired re-imagining of the Mary Shelley classic from the comic genius of Mel Brooks.

Here is our mini-review; The Playhouse production was a delight from start to finish with first-rate performances from a mostly Equity cast. Matthew Crowle as Dr. Frederick Frankenstein was marvelous...doing it all... acting, singing, dancing, including tap; as was Christian Kohn as The Monster (who, of course, also 'taps'); Abby Lee as Elizabeth, Dr. Frederick Frankenstein's high maintenance fiancee; Ashley McKay as Inga, the lovable, roll in the hay, laboratory assistant;  Brett Figel provided many laughs as Igor, no one wears a hump better; Bill Carmichael as Inspector Kemp, of arm and a leg fame; and Kathryn Markey as Frau Blucher, no favorite of Igor's horses, but a big audience favorite.

It was clear that the cast was having as much fun as the audience. Kathryn Markey's He Vas My Boyfriend and Abby Lee's Please Don't Touch Me numbers were standouts of the showstopper variety. The other major musical (and comedy) highlight, faithful to the movie, was Irving Berlin’s Puttin’ On The Ritz lead by Frederick and The Monster.

Special mention is in order for the fine production team: Tim Case provided the effective sinister castle set, Tracey Sullivan the period costumes, including wigs (Abby Lee appropriately wears 'The Bride of Frankenstein' hairpiece at the end of the play), Mark Wilson's lighting and Zach Williamson's sound design were particularly spot-on. Theresa Pierce designed the props, including the laboratory equipment. Tom Cleary lead a fine six piece orchestra. Bret Torbeck was the production stage manager.

Vermonters: You have just this week to join the fun at the McCarthy Arts Center Theater in Colchester. Young Frankenstein performances are 8 pm Tuesday through Saturday, plus a 2 pm matinee on Saturday the 28th.

The four mainstage plays of the 2014 subscription season are available as part of the subscription series - Young Frankenstein, The Fox on the Fairway, Arsenic and Old Lace, and Ring of Fire.

Season subscriptions range in price from $113 to $132. The Playhouse Box Office number is 802-654-2617. Single tickets range from $32.50 to $43.50. Ticket prices for Playhouse Junior children’s theater productions are $10. For more information go to

Here's more about the theater and the season:

Saint Michael’s Playhouse is an Actors’ Equity Association theater company owned and operated by Saint Michael’s College. The Playhouse produces its productions with theater artists from Broadway, Off-Broadway, and regional theater nationwide (Note: The award winning actress Katrina Ferguson, of Morristown, NJ, is currently here rehearsing Fox In The Fairway) along with its company of Vermont-based actors, directors and designers. Artistic Director Chuck Tobin:  “We rehearse our shows right here in our theater and design and build all of our scenery, costumes and props on location with our crew of approximately 70 theater artists.”

Next on the Playhouse stage is Ken Ludwig’s new mad-cap comedy The Fox on the Fairway (July 2 – 12, 2014), directed by Kathryn Markey. Playwright Ken Ludwig is an internationally acclaimed playwright who has had six shows on Broadway and six in the West End. His first play on Broadway, Lend Me A Tenor, which the New York Times called "one of the two great farces by a living writer," won three Tony Awards and was nominated for nine. A tribute to the great farces of the 1930s and 1940s, The Fox on the Fairway takes audiences on a riotous romp which pulls the rug out from underneath the stuffy members of a private country club during their annual golf tournament. Filled with mistaken identities, slamming doors, and over-the-top-shenanigans, it’s a furiously fast paced comedy that recalls the Marx Brothers’ classics.

The Playhouse season continues with Joseph Kesselring’s Broadway comedy classic Arsenic and Old Lace (July 16 - 26, 2014), directed by Mark Alan Gordon. Originally written in 1939 by American playwright Joseph Kesselring and later adapted into film by Frank Capra starring Cary Grant, Arsenic and Old Lace opened on Broadway in 1941 and became an immediate success, running for nearly 1,500 performances. In 1941, Americans were looking for some entertainment to take their minds off of the war in Europe and the growing fear that America would be pulled into it. Broadway gave them exactly what they were looking for with Arsenic and Old Lace. The play centers on spinster sisters Abby and Martha Brewster who are famous in their Brooklyn neighborhood for their generosity and kindness. But they have recently taken on a new charity project – relieving older gentlemen of loneliness by poisoning them with home-made elderberry wine laced with “just a pinch” of arsenic. The Playhouse presents this comedy classic for the first time since 1962.

The Playhouse will then present the final show of the subscription season Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash (July 30 – August 9, 2014), directed by Chris Blisset. From the iconic songbook of Johnny Cash comes this unique musical about love and faith, struggle and success, rowdiness and redemption, and home and family. Creator Richard Maltby, Jr. describes Ring of Fire as “almost a mythic American tale of growing up in simple, dirt-poor surroundings in the heartland of America, leaving home, traveling on wings of music, finding love, misadventure, success, faith, redemption and eventually returning home.
It's about the journey of a man in search of his own soul.” More than two dozen classic hits including “I Walk The Line,” “A Boy Named Sue,” “Folsom Prison Blues,” and “Ring Of Fire” - all performed by a multi-talented cast of five actor/musicians - paint a musical portrait of The Man in Black that promises to be a foot-stomping, crowd-pleasing salute to a uniquely American legend. Though he is never impersonated, Johnny Cash's remarkable life story is told through his music, climaxing in a concert that will both move and exhilarate.

In addition to the four plays of the subscription season Playhouse Junior offers theater productions for young audiences. Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat (July 18 – 20, 2014) is an imaginative adaptation of Seuss’s classic book. From the moment his tall, red-and-white-striped had appears around the door Sally and her brother know that The Cat in the Hat is the funniest, most mischievous cat they have ever met. Next is Dear Edwina (August 1 – 3, 2014) a heartwarming musical about the joys of growing up. Edwina and her friends share wisdom on everything from trying new foods to making new friends. Playhouse Junior productions are not part of the subscription season but can be purchased separately.

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