The world of theater is mining the nostalgia of the folks who are fast-approaching retirement age, with everything from Monty Python to Mel Brooks up for consideration. And for what it’s worth, it has worked wonders on the stage of Asheville Community Theatre in recent years. The local company has embraced such nostalgia and parlayed it into an endless succession of hits, the latest being the Mel Brooks madcap monster-fest, Young Frankenstein. The show kicks off ACT’s 70th season with a lot of style and even more laughs.
Director Jerry Crouch has been at the helm of most of ACT’s biggest hits in recent years. He has assembled a professional-quality team onstage and off to bring this inspired lunacy to life. Despite being a community theater, over the past few years ACT has steadily moved toward the shows one would expect of professional theater companies. That is evident from the minute you walk into the auditorium and get a glimpse of the elaborate castle set on stage. Throughout the performance, the walls move, turn and morph into virtually every location required throughout the show. It is a feat of stagecraft wonder, and scenic designer Jill Summers has found a way to really wow the audience.
The cast consists of some of the region’s premiere talent, with star turns from newcomer Calintha Briggs as Inga, Strother Stingly as Victor Von Frankenstein (who impresses onstage, be it in the flesh or in the form of a wildly realistic painting on the wall of the castle), David Fine as Igor, Rock Eblen as Inspector Kemp, Nana Hosmer Griffin as Elizabeth and Waylon Wood as The Monster. Each have spectacular moments in the show.
As Frau Blucher, Carol Duermit steals scenes with her austere and hilarious performance. The whole madcap thing is held together by Mark Jones as Frederick Frankenstein (pronounced Frank-in-steen, as he carefully points out.) Jones is no stranger to ACT, and delivers as the reluctant mad scientist.
There’s a sturdy ensemble supporting it all, with song, dance and further antics. The precision dance moves are courtesy of Shari Azar, another newcomer to ACT. Chuck Taft directs the music from an unseen location, heading up a strong group of instrumentalists. Lisa Sturz of Red Herring Puppets provides a particularly impressive giant Frankenstein Monster puppet that haunts a dream sequence. It looms large over the cast, and even out into the audience.
Judging from the large crowds who fill the auditorium with their even larger laughter, ACT clearly has another hit on its hands with Young Frankenstein.