BY JAMES BUCKLEY
Holy Toledo! Otto Layman and his Santa Barbara High School Performing Arts Department have done it yet again. Montecito Journal has featured Layman's stellar productions of such classics as Beauty & the Beast, Singing Is The Rain, Spamalot, The Drowsy Chaperone, Footloose (featuring an end of the show performance of the song "Footloose" by its creator, Kenny Loggins), and many other fine productions. I have often wondered in writing what mysterious ability Otto has that allows him to inspire a continuing cavalcade of youngsters bristling with unformed talent to perform at a level, dare I say, decades above their pay grade? But have yet to discover what that is.
This latest production of the Mel Brook musical Young Frankenstein is… without mincing wands, absolutely terriﬁc. It's a Broadway-level show starring Broadway-ready high schoolers who can sing, dance, and act as well as anybody who has ever done so on astage.
What a production!
What a cast!
What a set!
What a silly, saucy script!
What glorious mayhem!
The SBHS version of Young Frankenstein is, as usual for an Otto Layman production, the best show in town. If you haven't already made it a point to purchase a ticket for this weekend to enjoy a show that will surpass whatever expectations you may have about a high-school play, you should do so now. The music is terriﬁc: the band is terriﬁc; the cast is terriﬁc. Did I mention that the play is terriﬁc?
Just a few words about the leading cast members: the surprisingly versatile Ben Zevallos - half Pierce Brosnan, hall James Cagney - strikes just the right notes as the befuddled but ﬂexible Frederick Frankenstein grandson of the original Dr. Victor Frankenstein. Hazel Brady is a hoot as the professor's Transylvanian assistant Inga. Her manic performance in the back of a hay wagon with Zevallos singing “Roll ln The Hay" (how the heck she is able to spring up and down and swivel back and forth, and still sing and smile sweetly as the wagon itself moves is a mystery), had me nearly rolling... in the aisle, with laughter and delight. William Blondell is also a surprising ﬁnd, in that dressed as Igor, Frederick Frankenstein's manservant and all-around helpmate, with a fully formed hunchback no less, was enough for a continuing laugh, but neither Blondell nor Layman were content to simply use the costume as a comic backdrop; Igor joined in the frivolity with a full complement of freshly mined talent.
The same can be said for Cai Norton as the monster. His role only required him to grunt loudly at first but by the end of the play he too was gyrating, gesticulating, singing, and dancing like a pro. Lily Linz as Frau Blucher (at whose mentioned name the “horses” in the background neigh and fright; blucher is closer to a German word for “glue”) was fun. Sarina Wasserman as Frederick’s cold-as-ice fiancée who finally warms up… to the monster… was a treat, as was Drewes McFarling as both the original Dr. Frankenstein and the blind hermit.
Kudos to everyone involved, from choreographer Christina McCarthy to musical director Jon Nathan, vocal director Sio Tepper, costume designer Bonnie Thor, lighting designer Mike Madden, stage manager An Pham, and Jonathan Mitchell, technical director. You all have done something wonderful and have created memories for all those high school students that will last a lifetime. For most, their participation in such a worthy and exciting and satisfying endeavor will stand out as a highlight of their high school educational experience.
As for you dear reader, you will sorely be missing out if you don’t hurry yourself down to the SBHS theatre as soon as you are able. This is a ridiculous good show. It is playing Friday and Saturday, November 11 and 12, at 7pm and Saturday and Sunday, November 12 and 13, at 2pm. Tickets are too cheap at twice the price: $10 students and seniors; $15 general admission; $25 reserved orchestra seating. Call (805) 966-9101, ext. 5029, or go online at sbhstheatre.com.
You will thank me for it.