Puttin’ on a hit

Neshaminy Valley Music Theatre’s 62nd annual production will be Mel Brooks’ horror spoof ‘Young Frankenstein’

By Samantha Bambino

The Times

Local talents: Pictured are (from left) Bob Quintana, of Yardley, as Frederick Frankenstein; Michael Powell, of Hatboro, as Inspector Kemp; Jack Sariego, of Jenkintown, as Igor; and Eva Kastner-Puschl, of Yardley, as Inga. Source: Jess Graves Photography

In 1974, the creative genius of Mel Brooks unleashed to the world what can arguably be deemed the birth of the “horror comedy” genre. The movie was Young Frankenstein, a hilarious parody of Mary Shelley’s iconic novel Frankenstein, which chronicles the tale of Frederick Frankenstein (pronounced “Fronk-en-steen”) as he carries on his grandfather’s somewhat questionable legacy of bringing the dead back to life.

After much success, Brooks adapted his hit film into a stage musical entitled The New Mel Brooks Musical: Young Frankenstein, which premiered on Broadway in 2007 starring Fred Applegate and Roger Bart. Now, the eight-time Tony Award-nominated musical is coming to Bucks County as Neshaminy Valley Music Theatre’s 62nd annual production on April 6, 7, 8, 13 and 14 at Neshaminy High School’s Theodore Kloos Auditorium in Langhorne.

Founded in 1956, Neshaminy Valley Music Theatre is the region’s three-time International Music and Entertainment Association Award-winning theater company that boasts a cast of more than 30 performers from across the Delaware Valley. The mission of the nonprofit theater and its annual productions is to raise funds for scholarships, which are awarded to graduating seniors of the Neshaminy School District planning to continue their studies in the fine or performing arts in college. To date, the organization has awarded more than $146,000 in scholarships.

Since its creation, NVMT has prided itself on being an all-inclusive theater company that encompasses a wide range of talent, from the professionally experienced to those who have never stepped foot on stage. All actors and behind-the-scenes crew are volunteers with families, careers and other responsibilities. Despite their varying lives, each participant has one thing in common — a passion for the theater.

One such actor is Joe Harris of Trevose, who plays the role of Frederick’s grandfather, Victor von Frankenstein. Harris joined NVMT in 2014 at the insistence of his granddaughter, who needed a friendly face present during her first dive into theater. The production that year was Anything Goes, and Harris was given a one-liner spot in the chorus.

“I remember shaking, being scared to death,” he recalled.

But Harris overcame his stagefright and slowly but surely got more involved, even volunteering his time on Saturdays to help build sets. The directors saw a growing passion and dedication in Harris, and therefore kept offering him larger parts in the productions. This year’s role of Victor will be his biggest to date, and the only one for which he had to audition. Harris’ prominent scene in Young Frankenstein takes place after Frederick, played by Bob Quintana of Yardley, falls asleep in front of the fireplace, which has a portrait of Victor hung above it. In a dream sequence, Harris appears before Quintana to encourage him to carry on his legacy. His monologue soon turns into the catchy three-minute ensemble dance number, “Join the Family Business.”

Despite some initial nerves about portraying Victor, Harris credits his NVMT peers for helping him feel confident in the role.

“The group’s been together for more than 60 years,” he said. “It’s like a family.”

Actress Drew Pollack, a Florida native who now resides in Warminster, shared a similar sentiment. Though Pollack is no stranger to the stage, previously starring in Acting Naturally’s Once on this Island and Ohev Shalom of Bucks County’s Little Shop of Horrors, her portrayal of the mysterious Frau Blucher in Young Frankenstein is all-new territory.

“She’s so far outside of my comfort zone,” Pollack said.

But she was up for the challenge of playing this enigma of a woman whose name makes horses violently neigh in the distance. Pollack credits Barrymore Award-nominated choreographer Stephen Casey, who most recently worked on Bristol Riverside Theatre’s standout production of The Producers, for helping her break out of her shell.

Alongside Pollack, Harris and Quintana is a talented cast of local actors, including Jack Sariego of Jenkintown as Frederick’s hunchbacked sidekick Igor, Barry Dratch of Newtown as The Monster, Cara Nardone of Exton as Frederick’s fiance Elizabeth, Eva Kastner-Puschl of Yardley as the leggy lab assistant Inga, Michael Powell of Hatboro as Inspector Kemp and R. James Hunt of Trenton as The Hermit. An ensemble portrays a range of other outrageous characters.

In addition to “Join the Family Business,” Young Frankenstein offers a frenetic score that includes the classic tap dance to “Puttin’ on the Ritz,” comical duets like “Please Don’t Touch Me” and “Together Again,” and a second ensemble number, “Transylvania Man.”

Neshaminy Valley Music Theatre’s production of Young Frankenstein will take place Fridays, April 6 and 13, at 8 p.m.; Saturdays, April 7 and 14, at 3 and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, April 8, at 3 p.m. at Neshaminy High School’s Theodore Kloos Auditorium, 2001 Old Lincoln Highway in Langhorne. Tickets are $20, $18 for seniors and $10 for youth 18 years and under when purchased in advance and an additional $2 when purchased at the door. NVMT continues its popular flex-ticket policy — any ticket purchased is good for any seat for any show date and time, so that patrons can purchase a ticket now and decide later which performance to attend. For information, visit nvmt.org or call 267–733–8876. ••

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com