Puttin’ on the Ritz – Mountain Community Theater Presents Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein

By Julie Horner

“What knockers!,” I wanted to burst out, but the creaking double doors to Park Hall’s hallowed downtown Ben Lomond performing arts theater parted freely with a humorously haunting ‘scree’ without my having to rattle any hardware…jokes about ogling impressive accoutrement or rolling in the hay aside.

Rehearsal for Mountain Community Theater’s current production, Young Frankenstein, was underway so I took a seat unobtrusively near the entrance. The voices of a dozen or so actors filled the space – I’d stumbled upon the scene when the villagers have just discovered that the monster, newly sentient with an “Abby Normal” brain, has broken free from Frankenstein’s laboratory and has gone missing among the misty streets of the nearby village.

Based on the book by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan with music and lyrics by Mel Brooks – he of the infamously funny movie, which I can say is probably my favorite of all time – MCT is pulling out the stops and putting on the Ritz with this dramatic romp with meticulous nod to detail.

“He’s loose, he’s loose, he’s loose!” the villagers sang, imaginary implements, rakes, torches, and broomsticks thrusting into the air to punctuate the urgency. With a few words from Director Daria E. Troxell, Igor (pronounced “eye-gore”), played by Galen James-Heskett, swept from near where I watched toward the stage. “Where are you, you big ugly brute!” he exclaimed, and disappeared with a mournful cry as the villagers rushed from all quarters to their places on stage.

Galen’s older sister, Whitney James-Heskett, stepped in then to choreograph the next scene while Daria took a quick meal break to chat with me about MCT’s latest offering.

This is Diana’s 3rd show with MCT as director. She told me there are 18 actors in Young Frankenstein ranging in age from 16 to 60-plus. While many actors are regulars, she says, some drop in occasionally when life allows and some are new. “I hope there’s at least one new person with each production.” SLV resident, Jennifer Hennig, who grew up in theater, joins the chorus, returning to the stage after a long hiatus. She finds the experience “fun and exciting.” Benjamin Canant, who takes on the role of Dr. Frederick Frankenstein – played in the movie by Gene Wilder – calls his appearance “a triumphant return” from his last stage role when he was 15.

Canant says, “It’s a gigantic role with a lot of singing.” He said, “Daria likes to stay close to the movie – a lot of the same scenes, a lot of people’s favorite jokes. Most of us have seen the movie and we’re all on board to bring the movie to life.” He was invited to audition for part. “Obviously, I’m a fan – I love Gene Wilder’s work. This was something I had a shot at and seemed like a fun thing to do.”

Galen said that he auditioned specifically for the role of Igor. It’s his first show with MCT but he worked with Daria in Santa Cruz County’s Little People’s Repertory Theater (LPRT) when he was younger. “Daria is trying to stay true to the original,” he said, accents and all.

Karen Solomon has been with MCT since the beginning and now plays the role of Frau Blücher. “Certain parts I get magnetized to, the Wicked Witch, Mame. I love Cloris Leachman. She was a debutante from Chicago – she was gorgeous – I knew I wanted to play her.” Karen was at the theater that night to be measured for her costume.

Designer Alaina Boys says proudly that she’s starting to become known for her costumes. “My costuming gets good reviews!” She continued, “This show will be a bit tricky – but ingenious thrift store finds help.” She’s done several shows with MCT. “It’s my fifth time costuming in some form or another since 2012 – I do at least one show a year.”

Back on stage the search for the Frankenstein monster continued. Inspector Kemp is played by David Halper. “I think it’s time we pay a visit to this young Frankenstein!” he proclaims in a perfect Germanically Transylvanian accent, “Do some ‘schnooping!’” From the house Daria counts in a clutch of agitated villagers: “Five, six, seven, eight!” They exchange their lines then bustle off, pitchforks bristling, to continue the hunt. At the same time a bewildered looking monster lurches off the opposite way. A near miss.

The human behind the monster is Scott Kravitz. He told me, “I’ve been acting for a while and was looking for a part that suited my eyebrows.” He described the challenge of the role: “Even though I don’t have a lot of lines to hide behind, I have to express the emotional impact of being alive again – trying to fit in and failing miserably.”

Scott has been acting in the valley since 2003 after moving here from New York in 2002. “I love working with MCT – I’ve been actively involved for 10 years. It’s a great group, a lot of really nice theater. It’s quality at the community level.” And there’s always room for more actors, he says, and stage hands, prop builders, costume designers. “I think that everyone at some point of their lives should be involved in theater, to be part of something so much greater than themselves. Theater is an ancient and sacred tradition – every character I’ve played has something to teach me.”

Tickets for MCT’s Young Frankenstein are available at Brown Paper Tickets: http://frankie.brownpapertickets.com/

On the Web: https://mctshows.org/

Box office: 831-336-4777

Mountain Community Theater: 9400 Mill St. Ben Lomond, CA 95005

 

Julie Horner is an Irish folk musician and writer living in the Santa Cruz Mountains, California. Know an outstanding local artist, actor, craftsperson, author, musician, wine maker, or microbrewer you’d like to read about in the Santa Cruz Mountain Bulletin? Send email to: leap2three@gmail.com

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The ‘grass is Always Greener – Rick Ednie’s Bluegrass Roundup

By Julie Horner

Singer-songwriter, Rick Ednie, has advice for budding musicians and writers: Keep whatever you do. In 1998 or so he first tried writing songs, by hand, which he held onto in a folder for years, dragging it around thinking, “why am I saving this crap?” “Some of the thoughts were immature,” he felt, “Not focused, rambling.” He kept the old material anyway and it has proven to be a goldmine. “It might instill something in you that might inspire something else.” Like a seed. “I have this image of people writing something then saying, ‘oh this sucks,’ and crumpling it up and throwing it in the trash. Don’t do that!”

Locals will recognize Rick as a lead proponent in Santa Cruz Mountains-based band, Heathen Hill, favorites on the regional Americana folk music scene who play regularly at the Trout Farm, Joe’s Bar, LuLu Carpenter’s downtown Santa Cruz, and who used to have a regular Sunday slot at the Boulder Creek Brewery before fire gutted the building in March, 2015. Rick is quick to mention that Heathen Hill is far from a bluegrass band. “There’s no fiddle, no banjo.” It’s something they’re always talking about, he says.

In the meantime, Rick has branched out by forming another musical endeavor, which he calls Rick Ednie’s Bluegrass Roundup. “I’ve been a gig getter for many years. I wanted to get gigs but didn’t necessarily have the musicians to support it.” So he’d call around to find players to plug in to various gigs as he got them, basically rounding them up. He’d get calls from musician friends saying, “Hey Rick, why don’t you do another roundup gig?” So with a core group of four or five members in rotation, he started at farmers’ markets then helped make popular the Wednesday night Java Jam, which used to be at Coffee Cat up in Scotts Valley and is now down at LuLu Carpenter’s with a rotating roster of top folk musicians.

And with the help of his core posse, Rick Ednie’s Bluegrass Roundup has a new CD called White Turtle Dove. It’s his second CD and third time working in a studio environment. “I find it a challenge – the right people have to be together – there are so many variables, like getting the same people to focus on similar goals. We’re all just weekend warriors; I try to make a better effort.”

Most of the people on the CD are close friends, a few were hired as professional studio players. The album includes Rick on guitar, vocals, and mandolin; Bradley Richter on mandolin and vocals; Suzanne Suwanda on bass; Jason Lampel on banjo; Luke Abbott on fiddle; Liz Smith on fiddle and vocals; Mike Witcher on dobro; and Jered Chaney on banjo and vocals. Recorded at Joe Weed’s Highland Studios in the Santa Cruz Mountains, the album features outstanding bluegrass musicianship and showcases Rick’s songs, some new, some reworked from his saved archive of originals from his early songwriting years.

“I’m really happy with it. The first CD I did was definitely Americana, singer-songwriter stuff. This one is contemporary bluegrass. Or at least it’s structurally traditional – but I’m not from Tennessee, it’s how I hear the music, my expression.”

“Recording is a great way to improve your craft, to learn what you can do in that kind of environment – it’s not forgiving – it’s made me a better musician.” And he’s still feeling the love of recording with really professional players. “To have them on the project was encouraging for me, made me step up to the plate to play at a better level.”

This year Rick has been invited to play at the upcoming Brookdale Bluegrass Festival Spring Fling put on by the Northern California Bluegrass Society. The event takes place March 18 and 19 at Scopazzi’s in Boulder Creek – Rick Ednie’s Bluegrass Roundup plays Saturday the 19th from 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm and Rick says they’ll be doing a lot of songs off the CD. “The CD has some of the best songs I’ve ever written.”

“It’s my hope to get my music out there – I like to play music with people, and I also want to do more solo work.” He thanks the guys in Heathen Hill for being patient while he reworked his originals for the CD and for performing with them. “They allowed me the space to do that…to work through that. They weren’t judgmental about it…I mean, sure, they’d bust my balls about it, ‘You’re changing the song again?’ But they always allowed me the space to do it.”

Rick is a “project person” and with White Turtle Dove has a hand in everything from the artwork and design of the trifold CD case (make sure you look for the insert) to the promotion and booking. “I love the project aspect of it – it’s there to do – I feel a sense of accomplishment.”

The songwriting is the heart of it. “When I get a song the right way, I can say it’s new, it’s very fulfilling. I have the experience at the Brewery to thank for that, Heathen Hill, the music rights people,” who forced him to turn away from performing cover material and focus on writing his own songs. With White Turtle Dove “It’s not all me. I produced it, I’m on the cover, it’s got my name, but it’s more than that.”

Rick’s CDs, A Fine Place to Start and White Turtle Dove, are on the Web: www.rickednie.com/home/

Experience Rick Ednie’s Bluegrass Roundup at the Brookdale Bluegrass Festival at Scopazzi’s March 19th at 6:00 pm, 13300 Big Basin Way, Boulder Creek, CA 95006. Full festival schedule: http://www.brookdalebluegrass.com/

Julie Horner is an Irish folk musician and writer living in the Santa Cruz Mountains, California. Email: leap2three@gmail.com

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