Mel Brooks may have declared that ‘It’s good to be the king”, but being another one of his iconic creations that is invading San Diego Musical Theatre with his science experiments later this month. Dr. Frankenstein (pronounced “Fronk-en-steen” ) played by Kevin Hafso Koppman
When Dr. Frankenstein (Koppman) finds out he has inherited his family’s estate in Transylvania, he finds that he also has the family obsession with experimentations. With his grandfather’s hunchbacked helper Igor (played by Jonathan Sangster), and the help of a beautiful local woman named Inga (played by Kelly Derouin) will he be successful? And if so, what hilarious complications could arise?
So before the singing and the science started, here is a chat with Koppman about the role, the movie, and a particular talent listed on his resume that would be a nice fit to any Mel Brooks project.
“Young Frankenstein” the movie is iconic and has some famously funny people in it. In fact the movie is still so popular that it gets rescreened in movie theatres to this day; which means lots of devoted fans of both the movie and the musical. So what is the intriguing challenge that drew him to this play?
“It’s interesting because the same question pops up with a lot of Shakespeare and other classic plays. ‘What’s it like to say what John Gielgud said?’ The up side to Shakespeare is there isn’t just one iconic performance or recording, there are a lot.
With YOUNG FRANKENSTIEN it all leads back to the film, which is so iconic, and the original Broadway show. But yes, having idols of mine like Gene Wilder and Roger Bart hang over my head is intimidating but also motivates me to strive for something great. What’s interesting to me about this show is how to take material and performances that are so well known and make them real and fresh, not change what we love about the movie and the original show, AND not just do bad impressions of those performances we know.”
While he may have been a bit too young when he originally viewed the movie the musical is based on, it did leave a lasting comedic impression; both on him and the neckline of his t-shirts.
“I remember seeing the movie for the first time pretty well. I was really young. Young enough that my parents had warned me that it was modeled after a horror film so there would be scary movie aspects to it (monsters, skulls, lightning…etc). As soon as the coffin popped opened to reveal the skeleton in the first scene I got terrified and my parents paused the movie and asked if I wanted to stop watching. I said no and by the end of that scene where the skeleton keeps pulling the box back I couldn’t stop laughing.
Ever since then it has pretty much sat still in my number one favorite movie slot. At the moment I have a poster of the film that’s about 52×72 (which I can’t find the right place for) and a shirt that says ‘Damn your eyes!’ with Marty Feldman as Igor. When I first saw the film Marty Feldman really stuck with me. When I was a kid I used to put my shirt over my head and quote all of his punch lines. “
Having done everything from Shakespeare’s tragedies at the Old Globe to this summer playing a Roman servant at the North Coast Repertory Theatre in the musical farce in SOMETHING FUNNY HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM; as a performer who can do both drama and comedy is there a preference?
“Mostly my goal is to make one project as drastically different as the last. So if I’m here doing a Mel Brooks musical I may think ‘wouldn’t it be interesting to do some Chekhov next’. However I have always gotten a lot of personal satisfaction from comedy and that feeling is continuing to grow with every comedic project, which I seem to be doing more and more. It’s really nice when you have a healthy dose of both serious and comedic moments in a play. But to live all the way at this Mel Brooks end of the spectrum is both a treat and a dream for me.”
Under special skills you have “one handed clapping” listed, which seems zany enough to be a bit in Mel Brooks movie- how in the world did you discover this talent and has it been called upon in any of your roles to date?
“I think I saw it on some video online and taught myself how to do it. Then someone aggressively said to make sure you have something weird on your resume, an odd special skill. For two reasons: one, you know if they read the whole thing and maybe it’s a conversation start. I rolled my eyes at the time. I’ve never used it in a show but have been asked about it in auditions quite a few times.”
Come see Kevin suing, dance, and do some screwball science in YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, and maybe a Marty Feldman impression at the stage door.
YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN runs September 28 – October 28, 2018 at the Horton Grand Theatre, with press opening on Saturday, September 29 at 8:00 PM. For ticket and theatre information go to www.sdmt.org