Photo Credit: Adam Smith Jr.

In an age when artificial intelligence is being developed few novels can be as relevant as Frankenstein. Adaptations of Mary Shelley’s famous work have obviously been multitudinous, with the old Universal film featuring Boris Karloff probably being the most famous. The novel has received a new stage treatment in the atmospheric and well-paced musical FRANKENSTEIN created by Eric B. Sirota.

Those familiar with the novel or its many cinematic manifestations will recognize many of the plot elements in this musical. Dr. Victor Frankenstein, exploring the deepest secrets of the universe, creates an artificial man, or Creature.  The Creature escapes and ultimately returns,  demanding that the doctor create a companion or mate for him. When the doctor fails to do this, the Creature wreaks havoc.

In the current cast, Kevin Rehrer as Victor Frankenstein and Erick Sanchez-Canahuate as the Creature complement each other well. Rehrer gives a textured performance projecting a sense of ambivalence about the experiments he is conducting. As the Creature, Sanchez-Canahuate exudes a definite air of vulnerability which engenders sympathy on the part of the audience. The torment of being alone on the planet with no companion available is palpable. Both actors also have very fine singing voices.

Other talented members of the cast include Stephan Amenta as Victor’s friend Henry, and Gabriella Marzetta as Victor’s fiancée, Elizabeth. Henry has an unfortunate encounter with the Creature which provides some particularly memorable special effects in the production.

Impressively, the book, music and lyrics for Frankenstein were created by Eric B. Sirota, though credit is also given to Julia Sirota for additional lyrics. Sharon Sudol and Cara London are also credited with additional contributions. Much of the score captured the gothic atmosphere of the story.

In attending a performance based on the Frankenstein myth one obviously expects a spooky ambiance.  Much credit should go to set designer Matthew Imhoff and lighting designer Maarten Cornelis for providing a convincingly eerie atmosphere. Also of note is musical director and accompanist Austin Nuckols. His piano accompaniment was formidable but I also speculated what the score would have sounded like if additional instruments had been added to the mix.

The philosophical implications of the Frankenstein story are obviously profound. In addition to raising the issue of the consequences (intended or otherwise)  of tampering with the fundamental forces of nature,  the musical also explores the issue of relatedness.  Existence apparently is not enough.  As the Creature discovers, being “alive” without companionship can be a very empty, even painful experience.  At the end of the day, even “monsters” need a little love.

Directed and choreographed by Clint Hromsco, FRANKENSTEIN is playing Monday evenings at 7 pm at the Theatre at St. Luke’s located at 308 West 46th St in Manhattan.