For Cory English, life's a roll in ze hay.
English has taken his portrayal of Igor of "Young Frankenstein" musical fame from Broadway to the road — and he and the rest of the cast are set to make their debut at the Orange County Performing Arts Center on Sunday.
English had been living in London for several years, where he found himself performing as Max Bialystock in Mel Brooks' other blockbuster musical, "The Producers." After performing for a couple of years in London and then taking the show throughout the U.K., English received a call from Broadway, where he was asked to take on the role of Igor in "Young Frankenstein." When the show closed, the tour opened five months later; English and his family jumped at the opportunity to travel around the country.
"It's funny going around the country and seeing which people laugh at what stuff," English said. "In Atlanta, it was like a rock concert. In Kansas City, people certainly enjoyed it but they weren't as raucous or as loud. They were a little more reserved. We still got a standing ovation, but I think some of the innuendoes were lost. In L.A. they got every film reference."
The musical went on temporary hiatus last month, and is re-opening Sunday with many new cast members.
"I've just extended my contract because I'm having such a good time," English said. "What's nice about Igor compared to Max Bialystock is that as Max, I had to drive the show. I was onstage all the time, and there's a lot of responsibility. With this one, I don't have to drive it. I just have to come out, limp a little bit, have a Cockney accent and do some funny voices. It's a great part."
Ironically, English said, Igor often has to be the straight man onstage. In the musical, the grandson of famed mad scientist Dr. Victor von Frankenstein — a respectable American anatomist who pronounces his name differently ("that's Frohnk-in-steen") in order to distance himself from his predecessor — inherits the family castle and travels to Transylvania Heights.
There, he meets henchman Igor's grandson (who decides to pronounce his name "Eye-gore") and a host of other characters, along with rekindling the family occupation — much to the villagers' dismay.
Marty Feldman played Igor in the original 1974 film, and is a cult cinema figure.
"Everybody asks me to do all the Marty Feldman stuff, and I certainly do," English said. "If I didn't, I would have tomatoes thrown at me. I give a tribute to Marty Feldman, but Marty Feldman didn't have to sing and dance, and that's kind of where I take over. We give a good tribute to the film, but at the same time you have to surprise the audience with something new — and that's what I think Mel does well. People can just rent the movie if you didn't do anything new."
The musical has been breaking down barriers about the notion of traditional Broadway musicals, much as "The Producers" did in the early 2000s.
"I think this is the one show where the husband or the boyfriend might go, 'If you do want to go see one of those musicals this year, I'll go to "Young Frankenstein."' Those guys are usually the ones who will shout out my lines before I do. It happens every month. I wish, actually, that it would happen a little bit more. In L.A., people would applaud the hermit scene as it was rolling onto the stage, so really half your work is done. Just don't forget your lines," English said.
One of English's favorite moments during each performance is when he and Dr. Frankenstein are given time for topical ad-libbing. He said he also enjoys the musical's nod to classic American musical comedy.
"It almost goes back to a little bit of vaudeville, which is a lot of fun to do," he said. "As far as the future, I'm open for a 'Blazing Saddles' musical. I was a Mel Brooks fan growing up. Mel Brooks' stuff is almost like Shakespeare now — you can almost hear the rhythm. That's why I just signed up for another five months of 'Young Frankenstein.'"
In an uncommon practice, English decided to tour the country with his family, rather than go alone in the motor coach.
"Fifteen years ago when I toured, it was about how late the bars were open in each city. For me right now, I love watching my 3-year-old. That's what it is for me; the surprises are with him, and finding where the cool playgrounds are," he said.
English and his family also were surprised at how much they have enjoyed the West Coast.
"I liked L.A. I didn't think I would, but I really liked it. I don't know if I just appreciate it more now that I'm older. We found out that we could live in San Francisco or L.A. It used to be either New York or London. Now the West Coast may be calling …"
If You Go
What: "Young Frankenstein"
When: Sunday to Sept. 25
Where: Segerstrom Hall, Orange County Performing Arts Center, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa
Cost: $25 and up
Information: (714) 556-2787 or ocpac.org