Transylvania mania seizes Pennsylvania this weekend
Given a huge Broadway hit like The Producers, it’s only show business sense to see what other tricks might be pulled out of the same hat. Named the 13th Funniest American Movie of all time by the American Film Institute in 2000, Mel Brooks’s 1974 movie Young Frankenstein, co-written by Gene Wilder, finds New York brain surgeon Professor Frederick Frankenstein, transplanted to his deranged genius grandfather’s Transylvanian castle. Brooks himself worked as producer, composer and lyricist on the stage musical adaptation and worked with Thomas Meehan on the book. The second national tour playing the Scranton Cultural Center this weekend emulates Susan Stroman’s original direction and choreography. We spoke with actor Rory Donovan, who’ll be playing The Monster, via telephone from his hometown of Wilmington, Del. on his day off.
How did you get started performing?
My parents were both actors — they met on stage — so they dragged me to rehearsals ever since I was a baby, and I caught the performing bug at an early age. My first role was a gingerbread child in a neighborhood production of Hansel and Gretel.
Did you go through a phase where you rebelled against it?
Oh, yeah. Up until about 10th grade I hated it. I remember they were doing Peter Pan and my mom was directing and I would go to rehearsals and see how much fun everyone was having, so I kind of begged her to give me the 18th Lost Boy from the last row so I could get in on the fun.
What did you learn at UArts to help you prepare for this role?
Actually, The Monster is an interesting role because he really communicates with non-verbal cues. UArts (University of the Arts) has a fantastic program from all angles and they have really good movement-based technique. I’ve really been able to use a lot of what I learned at school to channel who this guy is… this is a guy who’s been stitched together and with every step there’s a jolt of pain.
You wouldn’t expect him to be too agile.
No. But conversely, I do have to do bit of dancing.
I don’t imagine the musical is much different from the film.
No. There are lines lifted verbatim from the movie. It’s neat because it puts audiences who are familiar with the movie in that comfort zone with the jokes they know. What the musical does that’s kind of neat is take the famous punchline and turn it into a song. So even the audience who thinks they know the joke is in for a little surprise. Frau Blucher sings “He Vas My Boyfriend,” — that’s her famous line, and Inga sings an entire song — “Roll in the Hay,” which is one of her famous lines.
Is there a number or scene you’re particularly enjoying?
I really love doing the “Hermit’s Cottage” scene every night. It’s lifted directly from the movie – Gene Hackman was the blind hermit. It’s just a lot of fun, slapstick comedy and I really enjoy doing it night after night; the audience takes really well to it. Britt Hancock, who plays the hermit, and I really have the whole scene down to a kind of choreographed dance.
IF YOU GO:
WHAT: The New Mel Brooks Musical: Young Frankenstein
WHERE: Scranton Cultural Center
WHEN: May 18, 8 p.m. May 19, 2 and 8 p.m., May 20, 1 and 6 p.m.
TICKETS/INFO: $39-59; 342-7784 or broadwayscranton.com