Herricks Community Players reanimate ‘Young Frankenstein’

The Herricks Community Players will reanimate the Mel Brooks classic “Young Frankenstein” this weekend in a musical adaptation that features a full pit orchestra, top-rate regional talent and a production budget that approaches off-Broadway.

“Young Frankenstein” chronicles the comedic journey of Frederick Frankenstein — pronounced Fronk-en-steen, he insists — the grandson of the eponymous mad scientist from the Mary Shelley horror classic, as he finds himself sucked back into Transylvania and the family business.

Based off Mel Brooks’ hit 1974 film of the same name, “Young Frankenstein” had a two-year run on Broadway. In 2009, the Herricks Community Players reprised another musical Brooks had adapted from one of his films, “The Producers,” which was a major commercial success.

“It’s fun to do another Mel Brooks show,” said John Mezzo, who plays the lead role of Frederick Frankenstein. “The music is really fun, and obviously the comedy is amazing.”

Director John Hayes is at the helm once again in his 39th year with the Players. Hayes, a former Williston Park resident who now lives in Mineola, called “Young Frankenstein” one of the most technical productions he has directed — and one of the most expensive.

“Taking something like this, they said to me, ‘Johnny, were you drunk when you picked this?’ I said, ‘I don’t drink,’ but it was a humungous undertaking,” he said. “I’m a big fan of Mel Brooks’ comedy. As soon as I could get my hands on the show, I said I’m going to grab it.”

According to John’s wife, Carol Hayes, a co-producer, the production has a budget between $50,000 and $60,000, far outstripping those of most off-off-Broadway plays.

And, when you factor in that the Herricks actors, set designers and director are all volunteers, Herricks Players’ budget for scenery, costumes and lighting approaches that of non-profit off-Broadway plays, according to two studies by organizations that research theatre.   

“I think what might be unexpected is the magnitude of this production — it’s just a big-ass show,” said Mezzo, a Mineola resident whose resume includes a number of regional credits. “Big sets, lots of props and like a seven-foot green monster who tap dances — it’s a little bit insane.”

Beyond Mezzo, “Young Frankenstein” features Warren Schein as Igor — pronounced eye-gore, he insists — Rachel Zampino as Elizabeth, Stacey Weinberger as Inga, Barbara Tromba-Murphy as Frau Brucher and Manhasset resident Steve Brustein as the monster.

Brustein, a veteran at voiceovers and accents, has had to adapt his style to play a character whose main means of communication is the grunt, he said.

“The performances are excellent,” said Hayes, who many of the leads also appeared in “The Producers.” “I’m not tooting my own horn — they’re a director’s dream.”

Hayes said the Herricks Players put on shows “as close to a Broadway production a we can,” using intricate in-house costume and set design to contribute to the professional qualities of the show.

Margo Bayroff, a stage manager and co-producer, added that costume designer Penny Payne takes extra measures to be historically accurate and set designer Peter Trolio, well, “if you see the show, it’s all him.”

Musical director Susan Weber, a former Uniondale music teacher and Herricks graduate, said the pit orchestra “lifts the quality and the energy of a production up.”

“If you’re just working with a pianist, you don’t have the energy of the sound of afull orchestra,” she said. “With live people, everything is flexible. When the lead sings, I follow them.”

And from top to bottom, people involved say the Herricks Players production is as top-grade as community theatre gets.

“If we were in New York City, people would call us professionals,” Mezzo said. “You have people directing and producing that have been doing it for 40 years, so they’re practically professional. They make and investment; they spend money on the production value.”

Performances of “Young Frankenstein” are scheduled for each Friday, Saturday and Sunday from May 3 to May 17. All performances are at the Herricks Community Center at 999 Herricks Road.

Adult tickets cost $25, and senior and children tickets cost $18. Show times and tickets are available online at www.herrickscommunityplayers.org or by calling 516-742-1926.

About the author

James Galloway

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