Written by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan
Directed by Luay Eljamal
Choreographed by Cara Chong
Vocal Direction by Miranda Marks
Starring Connor Meek, Jessica Watson, Eric Smith, Rebecca Collins, Daisy Daver and Brett Calvert
Wednesday, March 6 – Saturday, March 9 at 7 p.m., dinner served on Friday and Saturday at 6 p.m.
Dinwoodie Lounge (SUB)
Students $16.75 for just the show, $37 for dinner and show at tixonthesquare.ca
With the curtain about to rise on the University of Alberta’s inaugural campus musical, more than a few people are waiting with bated breath to see if it will live up to the year-long hype.
A project spurred by current Students’ Union VP (Student Life) Saadiq Sumar, the idea of a campus musical open to any student on campus has been in the works since almost the beginning of the Fall semester, and has had fans and critics of the idea talking about its viability ever since. But thanks to plenty of hard work on the part of the organizers and cast members, a production of Young Frankenstein will officially act as the first-ever campus musical.
Preparations for the musical began in November, and saw 50 people audition for the 29 roles in the production. Those who weren’t cast were encouraged to stay involved by taking on other roles in the show, such as helping with costumes or props.
The cast will have been rehearsing for two months by the time opening night takes place, and director Luay Eljamal is eager for the world to see the fruits of their labour.
“I think we have a really strong arts (presence) at the U of A, and it’s good to show that off,” Eljamal says. “When I first moved here, I was surprised to hear that there wasn’t a campus musical. There are always those of us who want to get involved in stuff like this. It’s a good way to meet people (and) to shed the wallflower in you when you first come to university.”
This musical in particular has the power to draw any student out of their shell, as it mixes a farcical, funny attitude, musical theatre dance styles like jazz and tap and pop culture references all into one show. This production of Young Frankenstein is a re-imagined take on director Mel Brooks’ film of the same name from the ‘70s. While most are familiar with the story of Dr. Frankenstein who brought a monster to life, Young Frankenstein focuses on his grandson, Dr. Frederick Frankenstein. Unimpressed and embarrassed by his grandfather’s legacy, Frankenstein finds out he has inherited the family property in Transylvania and is forced to go visit. Once there, he begins to gain a new appreciation for this grandfather’s work, and begins to play with the idea of creating a monster himself.
Eljamal was one of the people who selected Young Frankenstein as the musical of choice, and he says he was drawn to the humourous way the story conveys some important
“It’s a very identity-based show,” he explains. “One of the reasons we picked it is because it suits the whole ‘born this way’ movement, where everyone’s like, ‘Embrace yourself.’ I feel like there’s this mentality now that the play has a subtle undertone that supports that movement.”
Of course, as with any new initiative, the campus musical has had its share of bumps in the road on the way to opening night. After deciding to add an optional dinner theatre element to the Friday and Saturday night shows, the production was forced to take place in Dinwoodie Lounge rather than a space more suited for performances such as the Myer Horowitz Theatre. It’s made preparations a bit more difficult, but they hope the added appeal of a dinner theatre will make it worth it. The dinner in question will feature a buffet meal made by L’Express, and starts an hour before the show.
The idea of a campus musical was first proposed by 2011-12 VP (Student Life) Colten Yamagishi, who has taken over as producer of Young Frankenstein for current VP (Student Life) Saadiq Sumar while he campaigns for the presidency in this year’s SU elections. Yamagishi acknowledged the work Sumar has put in to making this one-time campaign promise a reality, and said he’s pleased his original idea has finally come into fruition.
“I think a lot of goals that SU candidates run on are multi-year goals, and two years is pretty fast to actually see something be implemented … it means a lot to me to be able to see something that I ran on and believed in be fulfilled while I’m still here,” Yamagishi says. “I think the principles of what I ran on when I wanted that to happen are being fulfilled by this musical.”
The ultimate selling point for the musical was the fact that anyone on campus could participate, no matter what faculty they hail from. Pointing to U of A productions put on by the likes of Abbedam, Studio Theatre and Lister productions as examples of shows restricted to those in certain faculties or residencies, Eljamal says the diversity of students involved in the production is an element of pride. And while there are no Fine Arts students involved in the production, Eljamal estimates that about half the students are in the Faculty of Arts, while the other half are a mix of students from several faculties, ranging from medicine to engineering.
“This was perfect for anyone who doesn’t necessarily want to study arts but still has that passion on the side (to) get involved,” Eljamal explains. “I’ve worked with drama students who think with drama minds. They’re trained to look at the shapes and the lines and think, ‘What’s my objective?’ But when it comes to these students from faculties like Science, they think outside the box. We’re so used to thinking one way, so that opens my mind — and I think all our minds — to newer ideas and possibilities when it comes to putting the show on.”
Still, not everyone is completely on board with the idea of yet another theatre production on campus. For some, the idea of spending money on something like a musical seems frivolous when there are already so many productions put on each year. But Yamagishi argues that the campus musical is no different from other events that the SU hosts throughout the year, and that Young Frankenstein will ultimately benefit the campus as a whole.
“I think the SU has a responsibility to showcase all sorts of student engagement,” Yamagishi says. “They could say, ‘Why do we have campus rec dodgeball, why do we have Break the Record, why do we do AntiFreeze.’ I think it’s a pretty mute argument when you think about engaging the whole campus community.”
Eljamal agrees, hoping skeptics will be silenced once they see the final product. He argues this year is just a starting point for an inclusive event like this, and a theatre production open to anyone on campus is exactly what the U of A needs and will grow to want.
“My argument would be that there obviously is an interest, because first of all, 50 people did audition and that’s with not that much word spread … So there is an interest, we just have to show that it can happen,” Eljamal says.
“I think what a lot of people are hearing is that they’ve tried to do it before and it’s failed. We just need that one time that we can push through that threshold and show them that this can be a possibility so we can have extra support in future years.”