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Local dentists fill in the gaps for worthwhile charities with humour, evil mayhem, song and devilish dancing in their production of Young Frankenstein

Local Winnipeg performing dentists know people will be smiling at the grunting, growling and horror they will be offering inside the Shaw Performing Arts Centre at The Forks (MTYP) from April 9-12 in the Mel Brooks Musical, Young Frankenstein.

“The show is a lot of goofy fun, running around and the songs are funny so that’s always a lot of fun,” said Dr. Chris Cottick, Section Head Adult Dentistry, HSC Director, WRHA Oral Health Program, and the Monster in Young Frankenstein.

Young Frankenstein centers on Dr. Frankenstein’s grandson, Frederick who, not unlike many descendants of infamous deviants, longs to dissociate himself from his legacy. After inheriting his Transylvanian property and discovering his grandfather’s laboratory, he meets the hunchbacked servant, Igor; blonde bombshell assistant with a twisted side, Inga; and somewhat terrifying Frau Blücher. The production of Young Frankenstein really comes alive with the madcap humour, crazy antics, and a lot of grunting and groaning!

Cottick jokingly said he was awarded the audition for the Monster due to his beastly height of 6’3”. He vehemently denies that the highly convincing loud growling and guttural grunts came naturally. Cottick has been in two previous performances for the Winnipeg Studio Theatre, breaking free of the bounds of his first stint as a plant puppet and all too easily morphing into the role of a more monstrous nature.

“This is more of a role, front and centre. It is interesting to see how it all comes together, how choreography works with various songs and with the professional staff who put this all together in a logical fashion,” explained Cottick.

The dedicated group meets up to four times a week to practice the oftentimes-complicated choreography and placements. One challenge they faced was creating a production designed to be on Broadway but within the spectrum of their smaller stage and within a far smaller budget.

With the hilarious nature of the production, professional coaching staff and the well-coordinated team effort, the show is able to breathe a new life of its own while creating wicked success all around.

Dr. Frank Hechter, Professor of Orthodontics, College of Dentistry and now a hunchbacked Igor, agreed and added that being a part of the production has provided him with the opportunity to spend time collaborating with other dentists that he normally doesn’t get to do.   The Igor character, however, collaborates, manipulates and convinces the grandson of York to take on the family business of bringing people back to life but in very different forms. Hechter reluctantly admitted that he might have somewhat of a disturbing connection to Igor.

“I have been a facilitator for sure, and in some ways, an enabler…so perhaps it is fitting, I’m not sure,” laughed Hechter.

Hechter explained that the productions never feel like work. It is something that the dentists do not do in their everyday lives. The people in the productions are abundantly encouraging but fiendishly demanding at the same time. Most importantly, this is all for a great cause, with funds going to Variety, the children’s charity and inner-city children’s dentistry.

“One of the things we do as dentists is that we are solo practitioners and we work with our in-house team and assistants. We don’t get enough chance to collaborate so it’s a great opportunity to be a team player again,” said Hechter.

Working together as a team awakens this production to devilish proportions, not only the actors but the production team as well. This particularly rings true when it came to the monstrous choreography complete with ghoulish dancing that had some dentists feeling like they are ‘long in the proverbial tooth.’   Hechter explained that the younger participants are picking it up quickly, but for the rest of them, the skills need a certain motivational encouragement.

“If you don’t get it, I’ll rip your face off!” were the words Hechter recited as being part of that motivation from the production team. “We want to get impressions of our faces to hand to her,” he rebutted half-jokingly.

Getting the impression of a billion dollar production with the small-scale budget was the job of White Rabbit Productions Artistic Director, Simon Miron, and his team. Faced with taking a big budget Broadway show and scaling to smaller proportions while creating devilish, mad cap fun is part of their expertise.

“I met with the designer and tried to incorporate a K.I.S.S. type of mentality to keep it simple as possible and more theatrical and inventive,” said Miron. Instead of having giant expensive machines that flare, spark and flame, he had actors doing fun and goofy things on stage with weird props. “There’s a lot of silly goofy things all the time with a Mel Brooks show – it does get quite crass at times – it’s interesting watching the dentists try to safely navigate those waters.”

It is a Mel Brooks show, quickly steering normality into the obsolete. Creating new life becomes a theme, not just for Frederick, but also for this group of dentists who successfully create an exciting, fun filled production without the Star Wars special effects. They make this show diabolically believable piece by piece.

“It’s going to be fun, a whole lot of fun to watch people who have a kind of serious, normal job experience turn to something frivolous, reckless and frightening and put themselves out there and really have fun doing it,” described Miron.

Miron goes on to explain that generally, on stage, a rule of thumb is that anytime an actor or actress can experience something for the first time, it will always pull the audience in and be a refreshing moment. This is particularly true for any first time performers. In the end, audiences of this Young Frankenstein performance will be left with a sweet treat of hilarity and will see their dentists in a brand new light.

“The show will be full of delightful little nuances and perhaps a few little screw-ups but all that is such a great spirited, very positive way that you just can’t help but enjoy yourself,” said Miron.

The Winnipeg Studio Theatre is a non-profit company devoted to creating and developing original Canadian and International contemporary plays and musicals, produced in an intimate theatre setting.   Our goals are to entertain and to educate, combining a mix of traditional and experimental theatre where creativity can flourish, and artists of different disciplines can collaborate.

-Holly Bochurka


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