Actors and crew members with The Hardin County Schools Performing Arts Center hope to bring monstrous laughs tonight as they unveil their latest production — “Young Frankenstein.” The musical comedy is the latest installment to the PAC Pro-Am program’s roster.
Written by Mel Brooks and based on his 1974 blockbuster comedy of the same name, the musical first premiered on Broadway in 2007. The musical centers around Dr. Frederick Frankenstein, the grandson of Dr. Victor von Frankenstein from Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein.” The 1974 film was co-written by and stars Gene Wilder.
The PAC production is directed by Aaron Taylor and features a cast of 32, including eight professionals and 24 amateurs, 19 of whom are students from area schools. Sherry Barnard serves as choreographer, Kim Strange serves as musical director and Allison Eckel serves as costumer.
Taylor said as a massive fan of the original Brooks film, directing “Young Frankenstein” has been a unique privilege. He said those familiar with the film will be treated to a show that updates the source material with big gags and musical numbers.
“The subtlety of the comedy in the movie doesn’t play big enough in the theater, so you have to pump it up some,” Taylor said. “You’ve got to go bigger with the takes and the jokes. That also helps ease the transition into these fantastic musical numbers.”
Taylor said “Young Frankenstein” seemed like the right choice for this season’s PAC Pro-Am production because he thinks local audiences are ready for a straight-ahead comedic musical. He said the success of last year’s “Mama Mia!” production proved audiences were looking for familiar and comedic material.
Auditions for the show began in July. Taylor said he chose actors who have demonstrated the ability to make big, comedic decisions for this production.
“My actors have been so good about totally committing to their roles,” he said. “I like my actors to have fun, to be able to make big choices onstage. That’s what pulling off this kind of comedy takes. Commitment to the punch-line.”
Jared Eaton, who plays Dr. Frederick Frankenstein, said there certainly are no shortages of laughs in the show. He said when approaching his character, he wanted to embody Wilder’s performance in the 1974 film and Roger Bart’s Broadway performance while maintaining his own comedic sensibilities.
“We as performers only get one chance to entertain our audiences, so we take advantage of every opportunity,” he said. “This show is bursting at the seams with jokes, bits and physical humor. We want our audiences to be sore from how much they are laughing.”
In addition to big laughs and rousing musical numbers, audiences can expect elaborate makeup and costumes and a set that evokes a Transylvanian castle, complete with moving lab equipment and a Gothic stage setting.
PAC director Bart Lovins, who is playing Igor in the production, said performing in “Young Frankenstein” has been a rewarding change of pace from his directorial duties at the PAC.
“After many years of directing, I initially found it difficult to balance between collaborating on a scene as an actor and stepping on toes by trying to ‘fix’ a scene as I might if I’d been directing,” he said. “I think this has been educational for me as well as the rest of the cast and crew.”
Eaton said though the show’s physical comedy, singing and dancing can take a lot out of the actors, the cast’s comedic chemistry makes it all worth it.
“When it gets going, I think all of us are having the time of our lives,” he said. “I hope the audiences can see how much work has gone into this show.”
Taylor said he hopes audiences have as much fun watching “Young Frankenstein” as he and the cast and crew have had rehearsing it.
“If you’ve never seen the movie, it’ll make you a fan,” he said. “It’s an evening of hilarious PG-13 comedy with amazing sets, costumes, choreography and talent.”
Performances take place tonight, Friday, Saturday and Sept. 26 through 28 at 7 p.m., along with 3 p.m. performances Sunday and Sept. 29.
Tickets can be purchased by visiting thepac.net/young-frankenstein.