The comedic take on the Frankenstein story will be presented at Smith Opera House this weekend
GENEVA — For “Young Frankenstein,” Steve Duprey wanted to have everything in black-and-white.
Based on the 1974 film, the musical’s initial goal was to have the sets, make-up and costumes in black-and- white, in reference to the movie of the same name, a parody of the 1931 film “Frankenstein,” coming from the original Mary Shelley novel.
This creative gambit, however, proved to be harder than planned, according to Duprey, the musical’s director.
“About three weeks in out of seven, after listening to various concerns from my costumer and make-up person, it became clear that we needed to add sepia to the palette,” he said, mentioning how “it was going to be a lot more trouble and expense than we were willing to handle.”
Now with three major colors and weeks of rehearsals, the show is ready to go on, at the Smith Opera House on 82 Seneca St., in Geneva. Tickets are $18 for general admission and $15 for students and seniors. The show will run from August 3-5 at 7:30 p.m., and August 6 at 2 p.m.
While Duprey is exhausted, the project was one he had wanted to do for a long time, given how the source material has “always been one of my favorite movies.”
“Young Frankenstein” was decided upon as the Geneva Theatre Guild’s next summer musical “about this time last year,” after a series of proposals from members of the guild.
After the guild arrived at their decision, the next step was the casting process, one that drew from multiple towns and counties, including Penn Yan, Clyde, Lyons and Victor.
According to Duprey, there was always an interest in “triple threat” actors for many of the roles, otherwise known as someone who “can sing, act and dance, which is a rare thing,” especially for the community theater world.
Fortunately, Duprey had support from his technical crew, including music director Christine Sauter Milligan and choreographer Barbara Herbert, who could cover for the actors who “kind of get by, as a dancer.”
While the rehearsals were going on, construction of the sets were also happening as well, with unique electrical effects by Duprey’s brother-in- law Ed Smith, an electrical engineer who managed to build a working Jacob’s Ladder, an electrical device that produces sparks which travel upwards.
While the effect is unique, it’s also quite dangerous, according to Duprey.
“You know we have to warn the cast. ‘You don’t get close to this thing.’ It’s shielded in plexiglass and everything, but it’s still 10,000 volts when that little piece of lightning strikes.”
As a result of showing so much fidelity for the source material, the 20-year veteran of the guild found himself coaching his actors in a way he hadn’t before, asking them to mimic the original performances instead of creating a new interpretation.
“My take on it was — and ordinarily I don’t do this — because when I direct a musical I tell my actors to stay away from the source materials, away from the Broadway version. ‘We don’t need to do the Broadway version. It’s been done.’ But I really wanted to stay close to the source material, so you’ll hear line readings and inflections, things like that, that are straight from the movie.”
The reason for keeping the cast close to the source material is due in part to the movie being so “iconic,” and because of the audience’s love for the source material. As he wrote in the director’s notes, “If you’re here, you’re probably here because you know the movie, and you saw the movie and you loved the movie.’”