Dedicated Students Make Young Frankenstein Come Alive

Running from March 6-9, University of Alberta students from across campus stage the first-ever campus musical.

Office of the VP (University Relations) - 6 March 2013

At the core of Young Frankenstein, a zany doctor brings a monster to life. At the University of Alberta, with far less terror and far more tap-dancing, a group of committed undergraduates has done the same with the elusive campus musical.

The new initiative, which spent more than a year on the Students' Union's shelf, was reincarnated this past fall by Saadiq Sumar, VP (Student Life). Working with the SU's desire to expand their event programming, Sumar procured funds, obtained rights and hired students to direct and choreograph Young Frankenstein, which runs for four nights this week.

Adapted from the black-and-white cult classic film by Mel Brooks, the wacky monster musical introduces the world to Frederick Frankenstein. Despite the fact that the infamous mad scientist is his grandfather, Frederick insists on disassociating himself from his heritage - it's Fronk-en-steen, thank you very much. When word of the deranged doctor's death reaches Frederick though, the med-school professor sets out for the place where it all began: the ever-eerie Transylvania. When he discovers his grandfather's "How I Did It" book, his misgivings about his bloodline quickly dissolve and soon, he's enlisted Igor (that's pronounced Eye-Gore), Inga, the voluptuous lab assistant, and the raunchy housemaid, Frau to help him make a monster.

Wading between coat racks of lab coats and pirouetting students in the transformed Dinwoodie Lounge, I met with director Luay Eljamal and actress Becky Collins to learn more about the production. As a supporter of campus arts and culture, a musical that involves students from various faculties is an exciting prospect. Though I acted in high school, I always lacked the courage to audition for Drama student productions and according to Eljamal, this is a pretty common attitude on campus. As a result, giving students from all backgrounds the oppourtunity to get involved became a big part of how Young Frankenstein was put together.

"I'm an advocate for bringing all faculties together with the arts, because there's definitely a separation." Eljamal says, "This production is a great way to see that there are students in engineering for example, who still love getting involved in the arts even though they don't want to pursue it as a career."

The students who perform, as well as those working backstage on Young Frankenstein, come from across campus: sociology, psychology, science, engineering and even medicine. Performers in the show sing, act and even tap dance along to quirky songs like "Welcome to Transylvania" and "Join the Family Business."

For actress Becky Collins, performing on stage wasn't a new thing - her education degree is focused in drama. A campus musical, however, was something out of the ordinary and like many of her costars, she couldn't pass up the chance to get involved.

"I hadn't done a show in a really long time," Collins, who plays the eccentric housemaid Frau Blucher, says, "I moved out of my house to come to university and have been paying my own way, so with shows its tough because they take up so much of your life. But musicals are my passion, and when I saw the posters around campus I decided to audition."

The choice to produce Young Frankenstein as the campus musical's inaugural production was born out of its accessibility. As a farce of the original novel, which many students will have read in first year English class, the musical offers light-hearted entertainment through raunchy and corny comedy. According to Eljamal, they modernized some of the jokes from the original, but kept with tradition of puns and bawdy innuendos expected from Mel Brooks, who's known for his farcical films like Space Balls and Blazing Saddles.

"We chose it because it's a comedy, and it works great in a dinner theatre setting." Eljamal says, "It's great for students as well, because not everyone wants to see something serious, it's nice to be able to relax and soak it in, instead of having to analyze everything."

Running from Wednesday, March 6 - Saturday, March 9 at 7 p.m, the big laughs of Young Frankenstein are a sure-fire way to lessen the stress of midterms, and also to check out a play produced by a wide variety of students. The weekend nights of the production feature an optional dinner theatre portion before the show. Tickets cost $15 - 40 and can be purchased at Tix on the Square. The show happens in Dinwoodie Lounge.