GLENWOOD SPRINGS — This month, the world-famous comedy stylings of award-winning producer Mel Brooks are coming to a Glenwood Springs stage.
And drama coach Kate McRaith couldn’t be more amused.
“It has been very entertaining,” said McRaith, Glenwood Springs High School theatre department director and a GSHS English teacher. “It is a funny, funny show.”
Bringing “The New Mel Brooks Musical Young Frankenstein” Broadway production to the local Jeannie Miller Theatre stage has been a serious undertaking. McRaith said the parody production, opening at 7 p.m. today, has also been a comical experience for all involved.
“When 50-plus teenage theatre types are going to spend seven intensive weeks together, humor is a must. ‘Young Frankenstein’ fits the bill for all these criteria,” she said. “It has a large cast, a number of leads, great music and dancing, funny characters, and a seriously funny plot. We laugh hard pretty much every rehearsal, which keeps us going through the long, hard hours.”
On stage, the cast has taken on the roles of lead characters Dr. Frederick Frankenstein, Igor, lab assistant Inga, and Frankenstein fiancée Elizabeth in earnest. With several seniors graduating last year, the GSHS theatre program has worked together to adapt, keeping a sense of humor all the way.
“The cast is quite different this year. Last year, we had 19 graduating seniors in the show, most of whom had been in every musical over the past four years. In addition, this year we also have a huge group of freshmen involved,” McRaith said. “So our core group has shifted significantly. There are some new students to the school who are simply stunning. I’m very excited to see how they grow and develop over the next few years.”
McRaith said audiences will be impressed with the young actors’ work on “Young Frankenstein.” Junior Kevin Snyder plays Dr. Frankenstein, who plots to continue his grandfather’s legacy of bringing a corpse back to life. This is his third show, previously performing in GSHS’ productions of “Beauty and the Beast” and “Grease.”
“The level of talent in our show is very impressive. Most of the leading roles are played by seniors with a lot of experience, although two are played by incredibly skilled juniors,” she said. “The rest of the cast is brimming with talent. There are some stars in every grade who just pop on stage. The most exciting thing to see, though, is the amount of talent in the freshman year.”
“Young Frankenstein” producer Amy Larsen said she has been impressed with the young actors’ talents, which she noticed has come rather naturally.
“Great comedic timing is not learned. I believe it’s an instinct born to talented actors destined to perform,” she said. “GSHS is blessed to have a great number of those performers.”
The making of “Young Frankenstein” — running this weekend and next with shows at 7 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and also a 2 p.m. matinée Saturday, March 1 — has provided comic relief for Larsen as she works closely with the cast.
“I can’t help but laugh hysterically, even during rehearsals, as these fabulous actors bring their version of Mel Brooks’ characters to life,” she said. “I just love watching these young actors on stage. Our talented cast and crew have put countless hours into this hilarious show, and we can’t wait to share it with a packed house.”
The comedy show, adapted for family audiences, features recognizable scenes from Brooks’ original 1974 movie starring Gene Wilder, Madeline Kahn, Marty Feldman and Peter Boyle.
“Two of my favorite scenes are ‘Puttin’ on the Ritz,’ with 50-plus tap dancing cast members, and ‘Surprise,’ a scene so funny I can hardly breathe,” Larsen said.
McRaith said she collaborated closely with the high school thespians to choose a production they felt a real connection to in performing.
Ultimately comedy — over tragedy — won.
“A core group of students and I were reviewing musicals last spring, and we wanted something with a number of leads, a large cast, great music and humor,” she said. “’Young Frankenstein’ was one of a number of choices that, in the end, won out mainly due to the humor. It’s a very funny show.”