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“Young Frankenstein” comes to life at the Mercury Theater

They spent $20 million to open “Young Frankenstein” on Broadway in 2007. But all the Bavarian money couldn’t avoid comparisons with the Mel Brooks-to-Broadway masterpiece “The Producers” from a few years ago.

Unfortunately, “Young Frankenstein,” based on the 1974 film by Brooks and Thomas Meehan, was also not translated. I remember writing The theatrical problem (aside from the overwhelming amount of material on stage) was that the dull and defensive main character, Victor Frankenstein (pronounced “Fronk-en-steen”), actually wants nothing in particular, beyond avoiding anything at all. comparisons to his own lineage. Unlike “The Producers'” Max Bialystock, he’d do anything to make a hit with a little old lady. On Broadway, “Young Frankenstein” was an oversized monster smash, and a monster bust to boot.

But last Thursday night at Chicago’s intimate Mercury Theatre, the show sat much more easily as fun, Halloween-season entertainment, directed by L. Walter Stearns on a shoestring budget and featuring a much smaller cast than the original. It’s still B-level material, but there’s plenty of it, mostly thanks to the two actors who star in most of the comedy. Here Igor, played by Ryan Stajmiger, gives a knockout Broadway-caliber performance and kills it during the show’s funniest number, “Puttin’ on the Ritz,” charmingly staged by Andrew MacNaughton’s Monster and choreographer Brenda Didier. full of fun.

When Mercury first began producing its own musicals, one benefit was that it allowed Chicago’s musical theater stars to work more frequently within city limits and in a small theater. Sean Fortunato, who plays the lead here, is definitely in that category, and finds a fitting way into his uptight companion by mostly highlighting his neuroses, albeit with a dash of Gene Wilder-esque charm. The cast also includes star stars like Lillian Castillo and comic master Mary Robin Roth (who sings Frau Blücher’s “He Vas My Boyfriend,” the show’s best-known and second-funniest song).

There were no surprises in Stearns’ staging; this was mostly due to fear of the show’s sexual jokes (if you’re going to play Brooks these days, you’ve got to have more courage). But the well-sung show moved at a good pace, with cocktails occasionally flowing from busy, white-aproned bartenders and hoopla and whoops flowing with equal consistency from the Southport Corridor audience who came out for the PG-13 entertainment.

Indeed, Stajmiger took every risk, grabbed this show (not to mention the audience) by the scruff of the neck and managed to make it work almost single-handedly. What a great comedic twist.

Presidential candidate Igor.

Theater Cycle

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Chris Jones is a Tribune critic.

cjones5@chicagotribune.com

Review: “Young Frankenstein” (3 stars)

When: until December 31

Where: Mercury Theater Chicago, 3745 N. Southport Ave.

Working time: 2 hours 20 minutes

Tickets: $35-$85 at www.mercurytheaterchicago.com

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