By Kenneth Jones
10 Oct 2007
The serious-minded musical based on Mary Shelley's 19th-century novel about playing God by bringing the dead back to life has music by composer Mark Baron and book and lyrics by Jeffrey Jackson. Broadway favorites Christiane Noll, Jim Stanek and Mandy Bruno are also in the company, directed by Bill Fennelly.
Tony Award nominee Hunter Foster, known for comic turns in Little Shop of Horrors, Urinetown and The Producers, gets to play darker colors as Victor Frankenstein, "the rebel scientist who challenges the laws of nature and morality when he breathes life into his inanimate creature," according to the producers. "Faced with intolerance and adversity, the scientist's creation rebels against the world around him, ultimately destroying the very man who gave him life."
Noll plays Elizabeth, Victor Frankenstein's wife, Stanek is Henry, and Bruno is Justine. The ensemble includes Becky Barta, Nick Cartell, Casey Erin Clark, Struan Erlenborn, Eric Michael Gillette, Leslie Henstock, Patrick Mellen and Aaron Serotsky. Opening night is Nov. 1.
(This is a big week for Shelley's characters: A few blocks away on 42nd Street, on Oct. 11, Foster's Tony Award-winning sister, Sutton Foster, will play Inga in the first Broadway preview of Mel Brooks' musical Young Frankenstein.)
In its development, the show was billed as a "bold new theatrical experience" rather than "a musical," but now it's "a new musical." Producer Evans told Playbill.com it was important to separate his show from the wealth of non-musical adaptations of the psychological sci-fi yarn.
"Our goal was to create an adaptation that remains faithful to Shelley's original novel," writers Mark Baron and Jeffrey Jackson said in a statement. "Frankenstein has inspired nearly two centuries of adaptations in almost every medium imaginable. While today's audiences may be most familiar with the film adaptations, we've gone directly back to the source. In deconstructing one of the most popular story of all time, we hope to offer a new perspective for contemporary audiences."
Frankenstein does not want to be camp or parody, producer 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 ten minutes with intermission, it's sweepingly heavy and intense. The words that we use are 'epic' and 'sweeping.'"
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 ten-feet-tall, bolt-neck behemoth. His human scale makes the story more moving, Evans suggested.
The projection-filled, song-rich pop show, told in flashback, has a creative team that includes Kevin Judge (scenic design), Emily Pepper (costume design), Thom Weaver (lighting design), Dominic Sack and Carl Casella (sound design) and Richard DeRosa and Marc Baron (orchestrations).
Director Fennelly is former artistic director of the Actor's Express in Atlanta. He was a resident director of The Lion King on tour.
Baron composed musical adaptations of Treasure Island and Snow White, which both premiered at the Forum Theater in Metuchen, NJ, and The Reluctant Dragon, in collaboration with Gary P. Cohen. Jackson (book and lyrics) penned the screenplay "White Collared" and wrote, directed and starred in the acclaimed short film, "Our First Fight."
Christiane Noll, who was part of the out-of-town tryout of The Mambo Kings, made her Broadway debut as Emma Carew in Frank Wildhorn's Jekyll & Hyde. She later joined the Broadway company of It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues and starred in the City Center Encores! production of The New Moon. Noll appeared in the national tours of Urinetown, Grease!, Miss Saigon and City of Angels, and she has recorded three solo albums: "Christiane Noll — A Broadway Love Story" (Varese Sarabande Records), "Live at the Westbank Café," (Car-Jam Records) and "The Ira Gershwin Album" (Fynsworth Alley). The singing actress was most recently seen in the American premiere of The Witches of Eastwick.
Steve Blanchard's Broadway credits include The Three Musketeers, Camelot and Beauty and the Beast.
Stanek appeared in the Broadway productions of Lestat and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.
Bruno recently played Eponine in Broadway's Les Miserables.
Frankenstein performances will play Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 PM; Wednesday and Sunday at 3 PM; and Saturdays at 2 PM. Tickets are on sale at TicketMaster.com or at (212) 307-4100. Student rush tickets ($20 each) will be available at all performances 20 minutes prior to curtain with valid student ID.
37 Arts is located in Manhattan at 450 West 37th Street.
For more information visit www.FrankensteinTheMusical.com.
Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein, The Modern Prometheus" has inspired not a few stage versions and musical versions. Some examples: