In its latest production, the Ogunquit Playhouse is taking audiences back to a time when frightening things didn’t come in microscopic form. The big, bellowing clod assembled by Doctor Frankenstein and reimagined by Mel Brooks is certainly charming by comparison, particularly when inspiration strikes him.

Based on the celebrated 1974 movie by Brooks, which freely referenced classic horror movies, the 2007 musical “Young Frankenstein,” also by Brooks, is full of laughs that mix slapstick and double entendres with spirited (sometimes quite loud) music, song and dance to provide a couple of hours of light-hearted entertainment that will close out the playhouse’s season in its outdoor pavilion.

John Bolton returns to Ogunquit as the slightly twisted grandson of the original doctor, the same role he filled eight seasons ago. Bolton makes sure his mad scientist is still crazy after all these years as he matches his character’s pseudo-scientific assertions with bloodcurdling laughter when his creation comes to life. His song and dance numbers, such as “The Brain” and “It Could Work,” sparkle with an exaggerated showbiz pizzazz.

Adding to the show’s fun is the return of Sally Struthers who, after years of work on TV and in movies, is back where the audience response at Ogunquit suggests she belongs. The role of housekeeper Frau Blücher is one ready for her comedic talents.

Her well-timed reactions to the others were a highlight in a show that occasionally seemed to hold its silent takes just a moment too long for a socially-distanced audience to savor. The Frau’s song “He Vas My Boyfriend,” sung in an exaggerated German accent, showed Struthers still knows how to sell a tune while simultaneously having fun with it.

John Bolton as Dr. Frankenstein, Will Burton as Igor, Hannah Cruz as Inga.

In addition to the Frau, the doctor is assisted by Igor, a spirited, if odd fellow played by Will Burton, and Inga, a fetching young Swede played by Hannah Cruz. Each had moments to reveal comedic savvy as well as impressive song and dance skills. David Baida also deserves mention as the comically threatening Inspector Kemp.

In the category of showstoppers, no one outshone Soara-Joye Ross as the doctor’s feisty fiancé Elizabeth. Some may remember her for killing on the Janis Joplin number “Piece of My Heart” from the show “Summer of Love” at Ogunquit a decade ago. A dynamic performer, she commanded attention this time in several light (“Please Don’t Touch Me”) and not-so-light (“Deep Love”) numbers with a powerful voice that effectively transcended the confines of the show.

The monster, played by Zachary James, gets his moment to strut once he gets past the haunting yowls portion of his life. James showed a strong vocal style by the close and much more in the show’s signature number “Puttin’ on the Ritz.” Top hats and tap shoes never seemed the same after Brooks unleashed this memorable set piece.

The direction by Jeff Whiting and choreography by James Gray are “recreations” of the original work by Susan Stroman and contribute, along with many special effects, in making this return of the famous monster and his friends a welcome treat as Halloween approaches.

Steve Feeney is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.