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Preview: 'Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein'

August 22, 2013 6:51 a.m.

KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando previews the Moonlight Stage's production of "Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein" by checking out a rehearsal.

Related Story: Preview: 'Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein'


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

ANCHOR INTRO: “Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein” makes its San Diego professional premiere this week at Vista’s Moonlight Amphitheatre. KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando stopped by a rehearsal and has this preview of the musical play.

TRAILER: It’s coming, from the deep dark recesses of the mind of Mel Brooks, I love him…

MATTHEW J. VARGO: I’m a fan of Mel Brooks. He brings these wacky, crazy, zany characters to life

Clip: Give my creation life

Matthew J. Vargo has a history with Mel Brooks that dates back to 2003 when he was involved in a touring company of “The Producers.” Now Vargo is directing and choreographing the Moonlight Stage’s production of “Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein,” based on the 1974 film.

MATTHEW J. VARGO: It definitely is an homage and a love letter to the movie so all those fantastic lines that everybody knows, and characters are definitely in the show.

CLIP Igor: Dr. Frankenstein.
Frankenstein: That’s Fronkenstein, my name is pronounced Fronkenstein

Brooks film and musical serve up an affectionate valentine to Mary Shelley’s classic novel Frankenstein and the 1931 Universal horror film. Larry Raben plays Frederick, the grandsonson of the infamous Victor Von Frankenstein, in the Moonlight Stage production. He says Brooks’ lines are an actor’s dream.

LARRY RABEN: They’re a road map for comedy, and so if you just pay attention to how he wrote it, the comedy comes.

CLIP Frankenstein: You must be Ee-gore.
Igor: No it’s Eye-gore.

Raben, who had the chance to meet Mel Brooks, says there was nothing better than getting approval from the man himself.

LARRY RABEN: To have Mel come up to you when you did something that he liked, like a grandfather and would grab your cheeks and go “Ah Lar, that was beautiful.” It’s the best feeling in the world.

Raben played Leo Bloom in a touring company of “The Producers.” He sees similarities between Leo and Dr. Frankenstein.

LARRY RABEN: They’re both virgins when they start their journey and they both meet a great woman that turns their world around but they are both eccentric and kind of half baked in their own way and the journey of each play brings the into manhood.

Brooks was a longtime fan of Broadway musicals so it’s no surprise that the comedian reinvented himself in the new millennium by turning his hit films into successful stage musicals. That’s why Vargo has had such fun directing “Young Frankenstein.”

MATTHEW J. VARGO: It lends itself very well because each time we meet a new character, Elizabeth the finacee, Igor, the doctor’s assistant, Frau Blucher, it is a perfect set up for them to have their song to sort of introduce who their character is and the role they will play.

CLIP He’s my boyfriend song

And breaking into song seems natural for Vargo.

MATTHEW J. VARGO: For me as a dancer and a singer it doesn’t seem so crazy and far-fetched for people to do that, you know in our world the reason you sing, the reason you dance, is that you can’t find the words to articulate what you’re feeling and so it just comes in another form of communication.

That makes sense for an uptight character like Frau Bluecher. Or for Frederick who needs to get pulled out of his shell says Larry Raben.

CLIP Aw what the hell,…

LARRY RABEN: I think the thing that’s so great about this as a musical play as opposed to just a film is the songs take us into a whole deeper dimension into what’s going on inside Doctor Frankenstein’s head so yeah it’s fun.

Part of the fun comes from the relationship of the main characters says director Matthew Vargo.

MATTHEW J. VARGO: The four of them really are to me the dysfunctional family that support each other, that sort of push each other, prod each other, a and push the buttons that all dysfunctional families do.

CLIP: Here, sit, read.

“Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein”…

Clip: That’s Fronkenstein…

Sorry, “Mel Brooks’ Young Fronkenstein” comes to life this week at the outdoor Moonlight Amphitheater with sets and costumes from the Broadway production.

Beth Accomando, KPBS News.

TAG: “Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein” runs through September 7 at Vista’s Moonlight Amphitheater.