Out & About: 'Young Frankenstein' is frightfully funny in Brunswick

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As the middle of August approaches, the end of the summer arts and entertainment season comes into sight. But plenty remains before the denouement.

Tops is “Young Frankenstein,” the final show of 2015 at Maine State Music Theatre in Brunswick. Mel Brooks’ most recent musical comedy is a frightfully funny show.

Another fine offering in the musical theater department is Arundel Barn Playhouse’s production of “La Cage Aux Folles,” the Broadway blockbuster by Harvey Fierstein and Jerry Herman.

Deertrees Theatre wraps up its 2015 season in the third week of this month. Three outstanding local musical acts close out the season at the Harrison historical landmark.

‘Young Frankenstein’

Mel Brooks is one of the funniest men alive, and the final production of Maine State Music Theatre’s 2015 season is proof of that audacious statement.

“Young Frankenstein,” a musical parody of the over-wrought Hollywood horror genre, opened on Broadway in 2007. It is a frightfully funny stage adaptation of Brooks’ own 1974 film of the same name.

Following the creative scheme he used in “The Producers,” Brooks brought in Thomas Meehan to co-write the script, while he himself penned the score. Although “Young Frankenstein” failed to impress the Tony Awards committee, it is nevertheless a wonderful musical comedy that has become popular among regional professional and community companies.

MSMT director/choreographer Marc Robin has assembled a stellar cast that is led by Jeremiah James in the title role: a brilliant New York brain surgeon who is ineluctably drawn to the mysterious Transylvanian castle formerly occupied by his grandfather, the notorious Victor Frankenstein. Once inside the castle, much of the original horror story about creating a Monster – first crafted by English novelist Mary Shelley in 1818 – is recreated, with many new and modern twists.

My companion and I laughed all the way through this show. The most impressive supporting cast members are Robert Creighton, playing Dr. Frankenstein’s hunchback sidekick, Jessica Lee Goldyn as a self-absorbed Manhattan socialite, Missy Dowse as the requisite blond bimbo and sex object, and Timothy Hughes as the Monster.

Two MSMT regulars also give outstanding performances in major roles. Charis Leos draws laughs galore as the mysterious Frau Blucher, who holds the keys to the subterranean laboratory, while David Girolmo excels in a comic spoof of the Transylvanian constabulary.

Kyle Melton’s scenic design, which ranges from the docks of New York to the inky depths of Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory, is another noteworthy feature.

Maine State Music Theatre presents “Young Frankenstein” through Aug. 22 at Pickard Theater on the Bowdoin College campus in Brunswick. Call 725-8769 or visit msmt.org.

‘La Cage Aux Folles’

When competing cultures collide, comedy results.

That’s the classic formula that underpins “La Cage Aux Folles,” one of the most popular Broadway musicals of the 1980s.

“La Cage” was wildly successful at the box office and garnered six Tony Award awards in 1984, including the three most coveted honors: Best Musical, Best Book and Best Score.

A staple of regional theater companies for decades, “La Cage” is the fourth show of the season at Arundel Barn Playhouse.

Based on a play by Jean Poiret, the Broadway musical version of “La Cage” represented the creative collaboration of Harvey Fierstein and Jerry Herman.

The setting is the French Riviera. A nightclub called “La Cage Aux Folles” (which can be translated as “cage of mad women”) is owned by two gay lovers who live in an attached apartment. The action largely shifts between the nightclub stage and living quarters.

The nightclub is wholly devoted to drag and transvestite acts. Georges is co-owner and MC. The star performer and Georges’ longtime lover is Albin, a highly strung singer whose nearly bald head contrasts with his flowing wig and flamboyant full-length dress. There is an ensemble of six “cagelles,” men dressed to the nines in drag who function as a Greek chorus, serving as dramatic foils and commenting on the action.

Director and choreographer Joseph Cullinane gets wonderful performances from the two principals. David Dennison plays Georges with a calm and collected demeanor, but he’s frequently exasperated with the volcanic, over-wrought temperament of Albin, played by Billy Goldstein.

Arundel Barn Playhouse, 53 Old Post Road (just off Route 1) presents “La Cage Aux Folles” through Aug. 15. Call 985-5552 or visit arundelbarnplayhouse.com.

Deertrees denouement

Among the first of the summer arts and entertainment producers and presenters to check out for the 2015 season is Deertrees Theatre, the historic Harrison landmark that was built in 1936 and today serves as the centerpiece of the arts community in the pines-and-ponds region northwest of Portland.

Three musical ensembles from Maine and New Hampshire will close out Deertrees’ 79th season:

• Heather Pierson Trio takes the stage Aug. 18 in a program that embraces the wide spectrum of the eponymous musician’s talent: folk, jazz and blues. Winner of the New England Songwriters Contest a few years ago, Pierson’s primary instrument is her voice, accompanied by herself on guitar and piano, while her two bandmates play string bass and mandolin. She excels in New Orleans-style jazz and blues plus rousing Americana standards and traditional folk narratives. Pierson performs all around the country, but most of her local gigs are in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and rural Maine.

• Aeterna Trio, slated for Aug. 20, combines the sounds of violin, piano and cello to re-imagine and re-animate standards of the classical music repertoire. In the traditions of 1968’s “Switched-On Bach,” Aeterna Trio aims to introduce classical music to listeners who are totally unfamiliar with the genre, or even estranged. Aeterna’s leader is violinist/fiddler Andy Happel, a versatile performer, educator and bandleader. A veteran of dozens of recording sessions from Maine to Nashville, he’s been a guest artist at the Portland String Quartet’s Maine Festival of American Music and he’s been a featured soloist in a Pops performance with the Portsmouth Symphony.

• Emilia Dahlin Quartet, scheduled for Aug. 22 (Deertrees’ final date of 2015), touts its “acoustic roots with a vintage jazz twist.” Dahlin’s three-man backup ensemble includes a guitarist, bassist and percussionist. Dahlin herself is a singer-songwriter who has copped numerous songwriting competitions, most recently in 2010 at the Boston Music Conference and 2007 at Great Waters Music Festival in New Hampshire. Her Portland-based quartet was chosen as a featured act at the 2013 Maine International Conference on the Arts.

All performances happen at 7:30 p.m. at Deertrees Theatre, 156 Deertrees Road in Harrison. Call 583-6747.

Sidebar Elements

“Young Frankenstein” is the final show of the 2015 season at Maine State Music Theatre in Brunswick. Charis Leos, left, is the mysterious Frau Blucher and Jeremiah James is in the title role.