THE NEVER ENDING PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCER, DESIGNER AND DIRECTOR: Brandon Rideout, STAGE MANAGER: HEATHER DOUCETTE, CHOREOGRAPHER: Noah Tremblay
by Joe Szekeres
For Brandon Rideout, director and producer of Mel Brooks’ YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, the process of its yearlong journey from page to stage has been a veritable labour of love for him. In his production notes, he writes that Whitby needs something to fill the void of young adult theatre and its performers who are ready to take on more challenging roles and edgy productions; thus another new Community Theatre (THE NEVER ENDING PRODUCTION COMPANY) has been born in the Durham Region.
For most of us, we have seen either the black and white film with Gene Wilder, Madeline Kahn and Cloris Leachman or know it is the tragic tale of Mary Shelley’s classic novel FRANKENSTEIN with a broadtwist. It was a bona fide hit on the NewYork stage a few years and a tired, touring production rolled into the Princess of Wales a few years ago as well.
To consider even directing a mammoth production of Mel Brooks’ comic masterpiece itself requires a great deal of studying the text repeatedly to ensure you begin to understand both the sheer immensity of the timing and the innuendo which makes this comedy move at break neck speed. Mr. Rideout, his crew and cast are up for this challenge since Mel Brooks once said, “You got to be brave. If you feel something, you’ve really got to risk it.” Brandon even includes some surprises in the staging of this production, but I won’t spoil them here.
And, yes, the cast of twenty-five dynamic and highly energetic performers is brave in performing the genius, humour and innuendo of this musical with extreme gusto. Along with DANCYN’s production of RENT in June, YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN introduces young adult new faces to the local scene. I hope we see more of these individuals on stage in the near future as well.
The following comments are based on the opening night performance. The colourful costumes are a true visual feast. It’s obvious a great deal of work has gone into them. Congratulations and well done to Rhonda Martin and her team who, I’m sure, spent many hours sewing, stitching and searching. Set design and construction of the various locales made full use of the stage where necessary. The unsung heroes of the stage and running crew, led by Brandon himself, are instrumental to ensure the break neck pace never slows down. Bravo to all of you as your selfless work is necessary to ensure the production is successful. Yes, there were moments where the pace slowed to ensure the set was in place safely for all. As performances continue, I’m sure the pace will pick up once again.
Nice work from choreographer Noah Tremblay in staging clever and inventive full company dance numbers, especially in ‘Transylvania Mania’ and ‘Join the Family Business’. A shout out to Tia Greto who choreographed “Puttin’ on the Ritz” as I’m sure teaching tap routines had taken a great deal of time.
It may have been opening night jitters, but some of the lighting and sound cues will need to be adjusted and modified, and I’m positive this will be fixed for the next performance. All community theatres are constantly aware that music (whether live or recorded) must always balance each other so the orchestra doesn’t overpower the singers and vice versa. Again, I’m certain this balance will be achieved as performances continue this week and next.
Jarek Landori-Hoffman as Frederick Frankenstein (that’s steen, remember?) takes us on his hilarious journey to madness in construction of his green-faced Creature played by Jaeden Duarte. Duarte demonstrates a good singing voice near the end which offered quite the juxtaposition to the character he played. As Igor (that’s EYE GOR, ok?) Nick Ritchey is a riot as we watch his bulging eyes and wonder where his hump will appear next. The roles of Inga, Elizabeth Benning and Frau Blucher (neighhhhh) have been double cast to offer six girls an opportunity to showcase their talents. At the opening night performance, Emily Doucette and Aliya Hamid demonstrate a solid range in their singing and comic timing. As Frau Blucher, Francesca Porco’s performance is carefully nuanced to provide uproarious laughter especially in her show stopping number, ‘He Vas My Boyfriend’.
A few years ago, I would have wondered if Durham Region really needed any more community theatres as we have enough opportunities and groups between Oshawa and Pickering. I’ve changed my mind on this one. If you have people who have a passion (as I saw with this opening night performance) and who are channeling their positive energies to bring the performing arts to life in Durham, then I say, “Bring ‘em on.” These are the very individuals who will continue to ensure community theatre is alive and well in Durham as we move along in the twenty first century.