Creature Feature: Somewhere Beneath Young Frankenstein's Monster, Preston Truman Boyd
Boyd as The Monster, with Christopher Ryan as Frederick Frankenstein, in Young Frankenstein at the Winspear
"It isn't easy being green," sang Kermit the Frog. For actor Preston Truman Boyd, starring as the mad doctor's stitched-together Monster in the Broadway tour of Mel Brooks' musical comedy Young Frankenstein playing at the Winspear Opera House through January 23, being green isn't the half of it. He also wears a special foam and latex headpiece, crisscrossed with fake sutures, to make his green head look bald, plus layers of heavy padding on his arms and shoulders, and shoes with built-up soles to make him about 7 feet tall. He tap-dances in them in the show-stopping "Puttin' on the Ritz" number with star Christopher Ryan as Dr. Frederick Frankenstein.
Let's meet The Monster in a monstrously funny show.
Just out of the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, Boyd did a summer on the CBS soap The Guiding Light just before it went off the air and he was repeatedly called back for the role of Finn, the singing football star on Fox's Glee (the part, of course, went to Cory Monteith). Boyd was cast in the tour of Young Frankenstein first as an ensemble member, playing several small roles. Director-choreographer Susan Stroman moved him into the dance line and then pegged him as understudy for The Monster behind actor Shuler Hensley, who originated the part on Broadway production and did 10 months on the road. Boyd became The Monster full time last August. Though critics haven't exactly heaped raves on the show (I buck that trend, as you'll see when my review runs next week), Boyd has consistently gotten good notices, including one from a critic who noted that Boyd "was thoroughly convincing as the Creature." (Think about it.)
Under makeup the same shade as the gunk used to greenify Elphaba in Wicked and the title ogre in Shrek, Boyd, 25, is a fresh-faced blond whose complexion shows only a few red splotches from the harsh chemicals used to attach the special Monster effects to his head and neck eight times a week. Over lunch at the Screen Door at One Arts Plaza up the hill from the Winspear, the actor indulged our curiosity about his life on the road in a big Broadway tour.
Boyd, looking much different in a production of The Pajama Game
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Does it bother you that the reviews are so tepid? The show is basically the movie with more singing and dancing ...
I don't think we ever expected to take the country by storm. It's a fun show, it's stupid, it's a good time. We just go to work every night and have fun. All the big moments from the movie are still there. With as many of the dirty innuendos of the man (Mel Brooks) who created it as they could put in it.
How much do you sweat in that Monster get-up?
I lose about 4 pounds in every show. I'm wearing a mesh nylon suit then I put on muscle pads made of cotton. Then the big shoes. On top of the pads are a gunnysack shirt and this big wool tweed jacket. Of all the fabrics they could have used ... tweed.
What was the show you saw as a kid that inspired you to follow this career?
A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Guthrie in Minneapolis. It had all this trippy media stuff in it. Wild. Then I saw the national tour of Les Miz. I had just played the role of Valjean in high school. [See him at age 16 singing as Jean Valjean in a YouTube video posted by his dad.]
How do you spend your off time on a national tour?
I play golf. Sometimes two rounds a day, depending on where we are and what the weather's like. I also ice skate when I can. I played center on the No. 1 high school hockey team in the country. A lot of my friends from back home went into the pros. It was hard choosing between hockey and theater. But I still have my own teeth. I'm also studying to be a sommelier, so I love wine bars and learning about wines.
What will you do after the tour is over?
My L.A. agent really wants me to head out there and do commercials and this and that. I'll give it a shot out there. Do the second round of pilot season. Got nothing to lose now.
Every actor has an "actor's nightmare." What's yours?
Falling into the orchestra pit. Every theater is different and I'm in those big shoes. And after what happened with Spider-Man, I worry sometimes. Hasn't happened yet though.
As an understudy, did you ever have to step in at the last minute when the actor got sick?
Oh, yeah, a bunch of times.
But now you have an understudy ...
I have two understudies actually. And I've never missed a performance.
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