Crazed Creations

Img 0394Opening this weekend is the long-awaited DM Playhouse production of the Mel Brooks' musical Young Frankenstein. The beloved Gene Wilder movie is a classic, and the movie has become a fantastic and song-filled laugh fest. Numerous local favorites are involved in bringing this show (and monster!) to life, including Charlie Reese as Dr. Frankenstein and Adam Yankowy as his formerly dead Creation.

While Reese has the titular part, Yankowy has what is probably more of a challenge, literally bringing to life Frankenstein's monster. Yankowy essentially has to deal with two shows a night instead of one, as the make-up requirements for his role involve an hour and a half before the show for application and another hour after the performance to remove it all.
 
Coming to Life
 
"The costumes have been the biggest factor in the character's physicality." says Yankowy. "I am wearing boots with a six-inch platform, as well as football/hockey padding on my shoulders. This has added to the walk and to the stiffness of the role. The make-up has helped with the grotesque yet playful characterization."
 
"I am still discovering how The Monster responds and reacts. So many of my responses are driven by the other actors on stage and everyday we are still discovering and playing with different motivations and reactions."
 
Reese doesn't have the make-up and costume burdens for his role as Dr. Frankenstein, but he is coming off a very different role (and was rehearsing for Young Frankenstein while also rehearsing and performing for Noce's recent Tick, Tick,... BOOM!) His character creation has been more of a split personality issue than The Monster's, considering the dichotomy he's been dealing with in dealing with two separate roles. Reese compares his character of Jonathan from Tick, Tick, Boom with Dr. Frankenstein:
 
"In Tick Tick Boom, Jonathan's character is constantly dealing with his own neuroses which leads into nervous humor since he'd dreading that transition into what he considers being an adult. In Young Frankenstein, Dr. Frankenstein is much more mature and collected, but also has many moments throughout the production where he can really go crazy and be goofy."
 
"In every performance of Tick Tick Boom, I had to collect myself and really get into the mindset of the character before I could really dive into what can be an extremely emotional performance. With Young Frankenstein, I know I'm walking into a performance where the audience is already expecting something because they know and love the movie. While there's no way I can match Gene Wilder's performance, we do our best to pay homage to the movie while also providing our own spin on the characters audiences know and love."
 
It Takes a Village
 
Not only are the characters different between the shows, but the tone, the size of show, the length of the run, and the larger cast all make for a significant change in approach. "Moving back into a larger production like Young Frankenstein means that everything needs to be dialed up since there's a separation factor with the audience. Not only does this mean there are more performers (a cast of 25 instead of 3 with Tick Tick Boom), but we also have a full live orchestra between the audience and the performers (led by Brenton Brown, our music director)."
 
Reese continues, "I'm also going from only 5 performances of Tick Tick Boom to 18 performances of Young Frankenstein, so it requires some additional stamina and endurance to carry that same performance throughout the full run. The nice thing about working with our director, Maxwell Schaeffer, is he's ensuring that no matter who's onstage, every character is important. It doesn't matter if you're a lead role or an ensemble member, every single person is integral to the story. Thankfully, we have such an extremely talented group of performers that there are no 'throwaway' characters and everyone brings something special to the production."
 
Duo Act
 
There is definitely a bond between the good Doctor Frankenstein and The Monster, and that holds true for the actors as well. Reese has special comments for his co-star Yankowy. "Adam is such a joy to work with. Not only is he extremely talented, but he makes sure that everyone involved in the production feels at home at each rehearsal. From day one, I've felt comfortable with him onstage, and many times I feel like he brings the best out of me."
 
"Audiences can really look forward to his performance, especially his performance in 'Puttin' on the Ritz', because he approaches the role with so much care that you can feel the monster's struggles. He's supportive of everyone onstage with him, and has such an upbeat positive attitude that you can't help but be excited to work with him. I'm honored to share the stage with him in this production."
 
The feeling is mutual from Yankowy. "I love working with Charlie! He is such a talented and giving actor. Rehearsals with him are like playtime - we constantly laugh and find new moments in every rehearsal. I honestly am so grateful to share the stage with him."
 
Audiences can see Young Frankenstein starting this Friday March 17 at the Des Moines Playhouse, and running through April 2.
 
Reese Yankowy Young Frank

Charlie Reese Noce Adam Yankowy Des Moines Playhouse Young Frankenstein Tick... Tick... BOOM! Maxwell Schaeffer