Roger Bart and Shuler Hensley: Hostel: Part II, Repeating One’s Self and Young Frankenstein, the Musical. By Brian Kirst
“I love the Hostel: Part II stuff! Ah, Hostel: Part II – currently playing in an all night theatre in Yugoslavia near you!,” jokes Roger Bart, stage door bound in Chicago, IL on tour with Young Frankenstein, The Musical. “Let me tell you a Hostel story – I was getting a massage – ‘cause after spending all day strapped to that chair, believe me I needed it. And the gentleman is really going at my neck and my arms and all of a sudden he says to me – So you Americans, you are making the Czech look bad?!? – And I was like, my life is his hands right now – Don’t hurt me, please!!”
Bart (who also appeared in Midnight Meat Train) isn’t the only recognizable actor with a horror film pedigree on the current tour, though. The overwhelming and kind Shuler Hensley (Frankenstein’s Monster in Van Helsing) is also on board as – you guessed it, Frankenstein’s Monster.
“They just contacted me,” he stated in reference to a Fangoria magazine, “they want me to talk about the whole playing Frankenstein thing.” Hensley, who not surprisingly takes the longest of the YF cast in make-up removal, acknowledged that current Chicago resident and Van Helsing co-star Kevin O’Connor is “a great guy” and suggested that maybe one day “I can play a different monster” for budding filmmakers like Emily Hagins (whose Pathogen was shown at Horror Society’s Zombie Outbreak last weekend.)
As for Young Frankenstein, The Musical, itself, while it is definitely not the intricate comedy classic that Mel Brooks’ 1974 film is, it does offer the same plot and true joy of a different sort. The jokes do rely heavily on obnoxious sexual innuendo and are often of the groaningly bad variety (horses named Black n’ Decker, for example) but the dancing, silly music and charmingly subtle interplay between Bart, Hensley and Cory English as Igor are completely charming. (Bart especially proves to be an amazing live performer, caressingly delivering his songs with skill and layered warmth and eventually confirming himself as a ‘must-see’ in the role.)
Horror fans of every variety will also thrill to the amazingly spooky House of Frankenstein and the gurgling laboratory set. (There are also quick and pleasant appearances from the Wolfman and Dracula.) The “Putting on the Ritz” number, so beloved in the film version, is also delivered here with panache and exuberant skill – a rare and joyful experience that truly clarifies the incandescent power that live theatre, at its best, can offer.
(Young Frankenstein: The Musical runs in Chicago until December 13, 2009 at The Cadillac Palace Theatre.)