Serious-Minded Frankenstein Musical Aims for Fall Life in NYC

News   Serious-Minded Frankenstein Musical Aims for Fall Life in NYC Frankenstein, the 13-actor musical theatre experience that was hoping for a national tour following a planned fall launch at Paper Mill Playhouse is now aiming directly for New York City.

Producers Gerald A. Goehring and Douglas C. Evans told Playbill.com that due to Paper Mill's continuing financial instability, they are seeking to take Mary Shelley's famed creature to a large Off-Broadway theatre for an October opening. If it happens, the unique show (billed as a "bold new theatrical experience" rather than "a musical") will open in the same month as Mel Brooks' new musical, Young Frankenstein.

First, the Frankenstein producers need to secure a space, finish their multi-million dollar capitalization and cast the show. Ron Bohmer (The Woman in White, The Scarlet Pimpernel), previously attached to play the Creature, is no longer in the picture; he's touring in High School Musical.

Goehring and Evans said a New York run will help better position the property for a future tour. Playbill.com previously reported the pair had hoped for 20-40 weeks on the road in the 2007-08 season.

The producers are also in discussions with regional theatres for possible life. Goehring and Evans expressed a hope that Paper Mill would bounce back (and that Frankenstein might find a home there in future seasons).

The projection-filled, song-rich pop show, told in flashback, has music by Mark Baron, and text and lyrics by Gary P. Cohen and Jeffrey Jackson. Bill Fennelly, recently named producing artistic director of the Actor's Express in Atlanta, and a resident director of The Lion King on tour, will direct Frankenstein. Visual and projection design is by Guy St-Amour, a founding member of Cirque du Soleil.

The company totals 13, with 4-6 musicians (an earlier model for the tour had 11 musicians).

The producers are planning to start previews in September, followed by an October opening.

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In December 2006, Frankenstein had a private industry reading in Manhattan. Drew Sarich, of Broadway's current Les Misérables and the late Lestat, played Victor Frankenstein opposite Ron Bohmer as the Creature.

The famed monster was created by novelist Mary Shelley in 1818. Victor Frankenstein famously resurrects a cadaver — with tragic consequences.

Producer Evans previously told Playbill.com that he became aware of the developing property (then called Frankenstein - The Musical) about four years ago, when the project was a more traditional book musical. The mix of moral issues, passion and love — the love between fathers and sons, primarily — "sung" to the producers.

Discussions between the writers and the new producers resulted in this latest version, seen in three enthusiastically-received workshop performances at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center Sept. 29-Oct. 1, 2006. Davis Gaines played Victor Frankenstein and Ron Bohmer was The Creature. Fennelly directed.

Frankenstein does not want to be camp or parody, Evans cautioned, but a faithful distillation of the passions and ideas of the novel, "Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus," about a doctor who brings a corpse back to life — and the mayhem that follows. The 1818 novel was revised and later released in an 1831 version.

Evans said, "When you see the last scene, and you see the interaction between these two men — essentially, a father and a son — it rips your heart out. For a musical that runs just about two hours and 10 minutes with intermission, it's sweepingly heavy and intense. The words that we use are 'epic' and 'sweeping.'"

A recording of an earlier version of the score is on sale at amazon.com (Tony winner Shuler Hensley is on the disc).

A listen to the lush, searching score suggests the show is in the same family as the popular The Phantom of the Opera and Jekyll & Hyde — musicals also drawn from 19th century gothic suspense novels with science-fiction or fantastic elements.

The settings move around the world, from the Arctic to Europe, mirroring the action of the novel.

Don't expect an ugly, scarred monster of the past Hollywood movies or past theatre versions. The creature is a recently hanged man, not a 10-feet-tall, bolt-neck behemoth. His human scale makes the story more moving, Evans suggested.

More information on the new production is available at www.frankensteinontour.com.

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Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein, The Modern Prometheus" has inspired not a few stage versions and musical versions. Some examples:

  • Mel Brooks is currently working on a stage musical version of his film comedy "Young Frankenstein," which will play a Seattle tryout before opening this fall on Broadway. Book is by Brooks and Thomas Meehan, songs are by Brooks. Susan Stroman directs and choreographs.
  • Frank Wildhorn is working on a stage musical of the tale that incorporates Mary Shelley as a character.
  • In 1980-81, a special-effects-packed non-musical, Frankenstein, by Victor Gialanella, was, at the time, the most expensive production ever on Broadway. The flop won a Drama Desk Award for its potent lighting design.
  • In 2001, Prometheus Dreams, a musical exploration of the material, with music by Sean Michael Flowers and book and lyrics by Patrick Vaughn, was presented by The Human Race Theatre Company in Dayton, OH.
  • Frankenstein, the Musical, with book, music and lyrics by Robert Mitchell, played Off-Off-Broadway's Wings Theatre in 2006.
  • A show called Frankenstein…do you dream? appeared as part of the New York Musical Theatre Festival in 2004, after beginning life in Canada.
  • Have I Got a Girl for You! The Frankenstein Musical had an Off-Broadway run in 1986.
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