Theater Review: Farcical Frankenstein the Musical Stays Faithful (Sort Of) To Mary Shelley’s Novel

Take one part iconic monster story, add in a sharp comedic sensibility, sprinkle in catchy musical elements, and bake in a unique audience-friendly venue and you have Pocket Sandwich Theatre’s marvelous monster mash-up Frankenstein the Musical written by Rodney Dobbs and Mary Medrick.

The ever-busy Dobbs also directs and does set design for the show (a tremendous and functional Swiss drawing room, spooky laboratory, and peasant’s bucolic hovel). As one of the playwrights, he has a direct line to a cohesive vision for his concept: a funny musical about the eponymous big guy based more upon Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel than the 1931 film with Boris Karloff.

In that vein, the play starts off with the historical set-up from the novel as Mary Shelley (Katherine Bourne), her soon-to-be husband Percy Shelley (Daniel Tiner), the Romantic poet Lord Byron (Kenneth Fullenwider), and Dr. Polodori (Stephen Witkowicz) play the late-night parlor game of coming up with ghost stories to pass the time. Mary is too shy to share, so she presents her offer to the competition in a dream where she is Victor Frankenstein’s (Tiner) fiancée Elizabeth.

The rest of the story follows form with the other characters. Frankenstein’s friend Henry Clerval (a delightful scenery chewing Witkowicz) an accomplished surgeon who becomes an Igor-like figure, Helga (Dusty Reasons) a vavavoom French maid as eventual monstrous love interest, and, of course, the Creature (Fullenwider) all show up to round things out.

Performances all around are quite strong. Bourne aptly translates her precocious nineteen-year-old Shelley into the wide-eyed bewildered Elizabeth. Tiner, who resembles a young Evil Dead era Bruce Campbell, plays the mad doctor on a quest with passionate fervor. He also displays some nice singing chops in the hilarious dueling duet “Creation Song” with Witkowicz. Ken Marmon as the put-uponButler, the blind peasant beggar De Lacy, and Inspector Ernst wins the all-star award for multivariate commitment. He is beyond excellent in each of his roles.

Finally, Fullenwider’s Creature is a large and expressive presence, both physical and artistic, and he possesses a surprisingly angelic singing voice. His turn as Byron sets the stage for energy and excitement, and he never wastes a moment in either iteration to titillate and entertain. Here is hoping we see more of this fine actor in the future.

The unseen, but definitely heard orchestra (Thiago Nascimento piano and conducting, Steven Hall on percussion, and Dave Yonley on violin) keeps things humming along, and sound design by David H.M. Lambert and sound by Tony Banda add to the already eerie atmosphere. Dobbs and company should be proud of their farcical and humorous musical creation. It may not be one of PST’s famous popcorn-tossing melodramas, but it is still a popcorn-munching, scary good time.

Courtesy Photo