By Chuck Graham, TucsonStage.com
Nobody does "Frankenstein" like Gaslight favorite David Fanning.
If David Fanning is back in town, it's a good bet that “Frankenstein” is playing at the Gaslight Theatre. Some actors are born to play certain roles. For Fanning, that role is Frankenstein's Monster.
The former Tucsonan's return always adds an extra edge to the Halloween season. When Fanning dons the electric neck bolts and platform boots, you can be sure the haunted nights will include some singing and dancing.
Actually, within the friendly confines of Gaslight Theatre, this iconic creation of science run amok is known as The Creature. The production, written and directed by Peter Van Slyke, has Victor Frankenstein – a descendent of the original mad scientist – returning home to Bratwurstlandia to finally cleanse this horrible curse from the House of Frankenstein.
That plan quickly unravels when we discover the evil Dr. Polvard and Hans, his hunchbacked lab assistant, want to crank up the creature for their own selfish interests.
This deadly wish becomes a serious pursuit when they also discover that, against all odds, The Creature has been stored all this time right downstairs in the castle basement. He isn't dead, of course, he's only de-animated.
But even though the original Dr. Frankenstein based his creature's construction on the belief that “parts is parts,” it still takes some serious power surges to jump start his heart.
Coming on the scene to be sure this sort of hanky-panky doesn't happen is the bumbling, burbling Inspector Klempfff, the town constable of Bratwurstlandia.
Consequently, in a story with so many moving parts, it does take awhile before we finally get to see The Creature. But when we do he is astonishingly green, has a cute little smile, and knows all the words to “Monster Mash.”
As usual at the Gaslight, all the roles are double cast, except for Fanning. He does every show as The Creature.
He is Tucson's own Boris Karloff, returning every few years to give a deeper, more personal and psychologically complex performance as the stitched together and wholly misunderstood invention from the dark side of science.
As a melodrama musical, “Frankenstein” seems to have more music than most at the Gaslight. Among the song parodies in service to the story are “Winchester Cathedral,' “Silly Love Songs,” “Staying Alive,” “Going to the Chapel” and the deliciously appropriate “Lightning Strikes Me Again.”
Yes, there is a place on stage for the Bride of Frankenstein, as well. That song “Little Darlin'” will never sound the same again.
As for the aftershow olio, this Gaslight gang is taking us to a celebration of “Viva Las Vegas!” Everything starts with the Rat Pack quintet, plus two ladies, laying down a few tunes, followed by Janee Page as Nancy Sinatra reminding us “These Boots Are Made For Walking.”
This only encourages David Orley and Heather Stricker to do a medley of hits by Louis Prima and Keely Smith.
There's lots more, but really, everyone is just waiting to see one of the Gaslight's favorite Elvis impersonators, David Fanning, set the stage on fire with “Burning Love” and “Viva Las Vegas.”
“Frankenstein” plays through Nov. 13, with performances at various times Tuesdays through Sundays at the Gaslight Theatre, 7010 E. Broadway. Tickets are $18.95 adults; $16.95 students, seniors and military; $8.95 children age 2-12. Tax is additional.
For details and reservations, 520-886-9428, thegaslighttheatre.com or visit the Gaslight box office, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. daily.