“Everyone who has seen the musical can’t resist its appeal!” And so goes Young Frankenstein, Loomis Chaffee’s most campy, raunchy musical to date. A parody of the eighteenth century novel Frankenstein by Mary W. Shelley, the Mel Brooks musical truly brought the island “back to life” this winter. The audience roared with laughter as the cast continued to break the fourth wall — referencing Benedict Cumberbatch, Starbucks, and the fund shortage of the NEO. Each night had a different dynamic and energy level. The tremendous effort that NEO veterans had put into the production was evident in the large-scale dance numbers such as “Transylvania Mania” and “Puttin’ on the Ritz,” the vivid characters (who are just a little bit crazy) and countless plot twists. Curious about the “behind-the-scene” work of the show, I decided to dig into the three-month-long process of producing Young Frankenstein at the NEO by attending the “Set Strike.” While my original intention was to sit down with just a few cast members, I ended up connecting with the cast again and feeling the innate source of creativity, passion, and uniqueness hidden in that little red barn.
One of the prominent features of the show is its welcoming atmosphere. The cast bonded quickly over the grueling warm-ups consisting of planking, push-ups and incoherent vocal stretches — what exactly does “babadoo babadoo” mean anyway? — and hours spent idle in the “purple room”. Sophomore Jacy Case ’18, a newcomer to Loomis’ full-scale productions, reflected on the warm attitude of the cast and crew and said, “coming into [the musical], I was really nervous because I hadn’t come to the first couple of rehearsals. As soon as I walked in, everyone was so welcoming, friendly and excited that a new person joined.”
Senior Kirsten Mossberg ’16, a NEO veteran, also commented on the new cast dynamic of Young Frankenstein compared to that of past years. “When I was a freshman, there was a lot of condescension from the upperclassmen to underclassmen,” she recalled. “This year, the seniors didn’t want to have that dynamic, so while we were still leaders, I saw that the underclassmen were a lot less timid about their positions in the NEO.”
Spending a day with the cast really made me feel at home. As we sang along with “Come and Get Your Love”, erased scripts and swept the stage while trying to fit three people onto a chair, the cast welcomed me back as a part of the NEO family — not only just as a journalist from the Log.
Young Frankenstein was a huge show; there were moments when some cast and crew members frowned upon the possibility of pulling off the musical. “If there is any show that I would give more time to rehearse, it would be [Young Frankenstein],” said senior and student director Derek Martinez ’16. However, for senior Josie Gautier ’16, the open dress rehearsal was quite encouraging. “It was the first night we had actually run through the whole show!” exclaimed Josie. The audience’s reaction revved up the energy of the actors and techies, despite some minor technical difficulties that occurred. “If you don’t secure the bookcase, it just keeps turning. It happened on the first performance; someone forgot to secure it and it kept spinning and spinning, ” laughed Josie.
Of course, one can’t produce a comedy with tedious rehearsals. Senior and “professional Monster” Damon D’Amico ’16 chuckled as he recalled a moment of a much-needed comic relief during dress rehearsal. “My make-up had something that I was allergic to. So I was lying there on the table, supposedly dead, and suddenly I sneezed really loudly. The scene stopped; everyone just stared at me for a second and bursted out laughing until we tried to pick up where we had left off.” Moments of spontaneous laughter, dance parties, and sing-alongs seem to happen way more often in the NEO than anywhere else on campus.
Speaking on the technical side, major “props” to the students working on the set! Prepping for a technically-challenging show that requires an excess of props, moving sets, strobe lights and spotlights, the techies handled their responsibilities effortlessly. They dedicated their free time, often every night, to building sets in the NEO. “You get this time where you can just mess around and build things; everyone’s really chill,” said sound-crew member Claire Collins ’18, although she added, “tech-week is not for the faint-hearted.” Maybe the stage isn’t for everyone, but being a techie is definitely a way to get involved with Loomis productions!
Kirsten came back to me later during “Strike” to relay a message that she felt is very important for everyone at Loomis to hear. “We get to do art that isn’t censored; we get to be passionate here,” she mused. “That’s something that I think lacks in Loomis a little bit. We get to come and, full throttle, do what we love, and that’s why I think everyone should come [to the NEO] at least once. Because there’s no other environment on campus where you get to do something like that.”
Pelicans: you can enjoy the plays and musicals here at the NEO (as I’m sure you all did for Young Frankenstein) as well as take an acting class, join the tech crew, audition for a production, write an one-act play and participate in a unique setting completely different from the rest of campus. You might have missed out on the NEO theater experience if you were scared away by the theater’s lack-of-inhibitions, or its seven-foot-tall, four-foot-wide monster roaming in Transylvania.