Silhouette Stage's Baltimore area premiere of "The New Mel Brooks Musical: Young Frankenstein" — with book by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan and music and lyrics by Brooks — might just catch a nod and wink from the spirit of Gene Wilder.
Adapted from Brooks' 1974 "Young Frankenstein" film — which starred Wilder (who co-wrote the screenplay) and swept two Academy Awards (as well as Golden Globe awards for co-stars Cloris Leachman and Madeline Kahn) — the Broadway musical opened in New York City in 2008.
Author of the 19th-century Frankenstein novel Mary Shelley might even chuckle at the outlandish horror parody performed by Silhouette Stages. On opening night at Slayton House, a delighted audience ate up the pristinely performed comedy like Halloween candy.
Skillfully directed and choreographed here by Tommy Malek, with technical direction by Steve Teller, the show sets out to captivate its audience early.
A clever preshow runs vintage black and white horror film clips (watch for Boris Karloff in the original "Frankenstein") and ends by scrolling Silhouette show opening credits.
Nathan Scavilla is credited as musical director with assistance from associate William K. D'Eugenio. Tina DeSimone choreographed tap, with set and sound design by Alex Porter, lighting design by Jeremy Mayo and costumes by Caroline Jurney.
Jurney's endless, eye-catching costumes frame each scene with fitting color and charm. Accessories like mechanical arms and 4-inch platform boots throw some visual fun into the mix, and Igor's shifting hump is a riot.
Porter's beautifully designed unit set transforms quick as lighting to various locales in 1934 Transylvania under the supervision of stage manager Donna Hawkes.
The attention to visual detail captured by Porter's minimalist set — from the bookcase and oil painting of the original Dr. Frankenstein to the eerily equipped basement laboratory — is impressive.
From the moment the stage lights rise on a lively ensemble performance of "The Happiest Town in Town," the cast and crew step high.
In "There is Nothing Like the Brain," we meet New York brain surgeon Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (grandson of the infamous Victor Frankenstein), nimbly played by lead actor Jeremy Goldman.
Goldman wisely resists the temptation to mimic Wilder's performance in the movie; he delivers outstanding vocals and a unique character who finds his heart and other body parts in Act 2.
Frederick learns he's inherited his grandfather's estate in Transylvania and bids farewell (for the rest of Act 1) to his madcap fiancé, Elizabeth, played by Ashley Gerhardt.
Accompanied by Goldman and the ensemble, Gerhardt is a sassy hoot in "Please, Don't Touch Me," where she reveals that her fiancé (a virgin) is likely the only man in New York City who hasn't.
When Frankenstein arrives solo in Transylvania, he hooks up with a Swedish lab assistant, Inga (played by Lindsey Landry) and Igor (played by Matt Wetzel).
Inga quickly becomes more to Frederick than an assistant with a lovely singing voice. Landry brings such sweetness to the role that she balances some stylized, very sexy moves with an endearing innocence.
Beginning with the ingeniously staged hayride to the castle, Inga appears to have great fun playing with things that go bump in the night.
All of the acting is so good that it is difficult to determine if there is a standout actor, but Wetzel comes close. Infused with a fine sense of comic timing and charming facial expressions, he kills every moment he's on stage.
As does Jean Berard as Frau Blücher — the mysterious elderly housekeeper whose very name elicits panicked neighs from the horses. Her believable rich German accent renders startling revelations about Blücher's sex life even funnier.
Blücher's solo, "He Vas My Boyfriend" is another number that shines.
And then there is the Monster. Christopher Kabara delivers an outstanding performance as the title character who transforms from an unpredictable, naïve simpleton into a smooth sophisticate at story's end.
The musical number "Deep Love" is definitely Kabara's moment.
Supporting actors Michael M. Crook (as Inspector Hans Kemp) and Don Patterson (as the Blind Hermit) also find moments to shine. (Patterson's scene with the Monster is worth waiting for.)
The ensemble — Adam Abruzzo, Derek Andersen, Darlene Harris, JilliAnne McCarty, Kristin Miller, Thomas Ogar, Julie Press, Jen Retterer, Matthew Sorak and Anthony Wisdom — bring clear vocals and boundless energy to the story, proving as versatile as anyone could ask.
"Putting on the Ritz," performed by Frederick, Monster, Igor, Inga and the chorus is the standout musical number.
Through two acts of lively musical numbers and superbly choreographed dance performances, Silhouette Stages' "The New Mel Brooks Musical: Young Frankenstein" is a fine and funny show across the board.
In his director's notes, Malek dedicated the show with love to Wilder and Emily Biondi, a Silhouette Stages actress who passed away last June at the age of 32.
"The New Mel Brooks Musical: Young Frankenstein" continues weekends through Oct. 30, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m., at Slayton House, 10400 Fox Lane in Columbia. General admission is $20. Students, seniors 65+ and active military pay $17. Children 10 and under pay $15. For tickets call the box office at (410) 637-5289 or purchase online at silhouettestages.com.