A scary good time with 'Young Frankenstein'

Winner of the 2008 Outer Critics Circle Award and the Broadway.com Audience Award for Best Musical, Young Frankenstein is based on the 1974 film of the same name. This inspired re-imagining of the Frankenstein legend follows bright young Dr. Frankenstein (that's Fronkensteen) as he attempts to create a monster -- but not without scary and hilarious complications.

The Tennessee Performing Arts Center production next month (May 10-15) will include such entertaining numbers as "Transylvania Mania," "He Vas My Boyfriend" and "Putting on the Ritz."

Three-time Tony winner Mel Brooks, who wrote the music and lyrics and co-wrote the book, developed Young Frankenstein along with his record-breaking team from The Producers: five-time Tony-winning director and choreographer Susan Stroman and three-time Tony-winning writer, Thomas Meehan.

Noah Aberlin, who has performed in the national tours of The Wizard of Oz, The Producers and Contact, is an ensemble  member of Young Frankenstein and the understudy of Dr. Frankenstein. He discusses the early stages of his career and his central role in this "fun, fast-paced and bawdy" production with Out & About Newspaper.

How'd you get inspired to live the life of a performer?

I kind of have this story like an A Chorus Line story. I would go with my mom to pick up my sister from dance class when I was young. My mother saw that I was inspired so they enrolled me in dance classes as well and I just didn't stop. Being a boy in the dance world has its advantage: you're usually solo so it's just you and a bunch of girls dancing. I was given a lot of attention at that age which I loved. Then I got into high school and started to do the high school musicals. Just from that I thought i would look into the degrees in theater. I went to Syracuse University in their four-year BFA program for musical theater. I graduated in 2004 and I've been performing  in and out of New York City ever since.

What are your experiences with Nashville?

It will be my second or third time in Nashville. I was there for Wizard of Oz. The last time i was there I visited the Country Music Hall of Fame. That was really awesome. I grew up in Brooklyn so I don't know much about country music. The museum is on the newer side of museums. But I always enjoy walking around Broadway and getting some barbecue. It's nice sitting and listening to the performers just do their thing.

Any favorites in country music?

I like the older stuff. We went to Memphis, too, so I like the rockabilly music as well. When I was growing up, my sister would always play Dixie Chicks, so that's always in the back of my mind.

What's it like to be a traveling artist, and specifically with this show?

It's been pretty awesome to do the show; it's a fun show to do and it's a fun show to watch. Comedies are easier for when you're really tired and you get into this routine. When you hear the audience laughing, you pick up the lightness of the show and feel the energy. We also have a great cast, and we have fun both onstage and backstage. We hope the audience picks up on that.

What can the audience expect from this performance?

It's a Mel Brooks show, which kind of speaks for itself. It's funny, fast-paced and bawdy. It stays true to the movie, but it (the production) definitely brings a little more life to the movie. When you're transforming a movie into a musical, you have more of the songs and dances and that heightens the reality of it. And because it was a movie, it jumps from scene to scene and so you have a lot of different set pieces and crazy characters being introduced. We try to make it one big laugh after another; we try not to stop the audience from laughing. It's an adult show with adult humor, but people of all ages seem to enjoy it. 

For those that don't know, it's the story of Dr. Frankenstein's grandson who lives in New York and would rather not be known for the fact that his grandfather brings dead bodies back to life and even goes so far as to change the pronunciation of his name to Fronkensteen. Then his grandfather passes away and he goes to Transylvania to work out his father's property and will and testament. He starts realizing who he is and tries to recreate one of his grandfather's monster. Of course, that just snowballs into craziness. The big part is "Putting on the Ritz," which we've made into a seven-minute dance extravaganza with everyone dressed up as the monsters and tap dancing.

Not only are you a member of the ensemble, but you're an understudy for the lead role as well.

Yes, I'm a member of the ensemble. I play, I believe, nine characters throughout the evening and I end up changing voices and accents. That's what I do most every night. I'm also an understudy for Dr. Frankenstein which is pretty demanding. You have to be ready to go on at the drop of a hat. I'm also understudy for Igor who is his right-hand man. The actor who plays Igor went on vacation recently, so I was able to perform his role for two weeks. He is 5'4" and I'm about 6'0", so that's hunching down for two and a half hours. It was physically demanding but emotionally rewarding. My parents and my boyfriend were able to come out and see me. It was well worth the backache.

Young Frankenstein will be at Andrew Jackson Hall from May 10-15. Tickets are available at the TPAC box office or by visiting www.tpac.org.

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