Viv Hardwick finds that madcap comic Ross Noble has found his perfect project in Mel Brooks’ UK premiere of Young Frankenstein, tale of a musical monster

EVEN the legendary surreal imagination of top North-East stand-up Ross Noble would have struggled to place him as a star in Mel Brooks’ revival of Young Frankenstein the musical, with a home city UK premiere opening week, in Newcastle, and a West End run to follow.

“This isn’t just my dream project, it’s off the chart. It’s got comedy, horror, singing, dancing, sex and death,” says Noble, who plays the hunchback Igor (pronounced Eye-Gore), the grandson of Dr Frankenstein’s servant.

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He got a phone call out of the blue offering him the role. “I did The Producers, so I kind of entered in the Mel Brooks’ world and it seems to take a certain type of performer to be able to channel his voice. I played Franz Liebkind and then they put the feelers out for this. I thought I was just coming to have a chat about the show, but three days later I’d done a day’s singing, dancing and acting,” says Noble.

The Cramlington-born comic then had a phone call with Brooks and “put a scene on video for the great man to watch, then the call came back that he’d love me to do it. The next thing I know I’m stood in a cowl with a hump and it’s all happening.”

He feels the Newcastle run from Saturday (August 26) to Saturday, September 9, followed by a West End booking at the Garrick Theatre couldn’t be better. “I did a month at The Garrick with my stand-up so I’ve got a lot of affection towards the venue and the Theatre Royal was the first place I ever visited,” Noble says.

He says that Brooks is exactly how you would want him to be. “He’s just a whirlwind of energy. If you’ve seen him in his movies, then that’s exactly how he is all the time. He’s one of those comics who is never off-duty, even when he’s giving you a serious note about the show he’ll follow it up with a joke. At the end of a rehearsal and we earn some applause he’ll shout, ‘That was almost good’. He constantly makes jokes and takes the mickey.”

The plot features Frederick (Hadley Fraser), the grandson of Dr Frankenstein, ending up in Transylvania Heights, in 1934, and building another monster (Shuler Hensley). Summer Strallen is Frederick’s love interest Inga with Dianne Pilkington and Lesley Joseph rounding off a strong cast.

“People really know the 1974 film and we don’t want to start messing around with it, but director Susan Stroman has said that rather me going off and improvising it’s me and the other actors playing around with the lines. It’s not Eye-Gore going off to do what he wants, I really like finding the laughs with what we’ve got. I like the discipline here. With stand-up I’m the writer, performer and director and I can do whatever I want. Mel Brooks stuff is so well thought out that you want to be as disciplined as possible to make the whole show funnier. A lot of people think I’m going to come on and just start ad-libbing all over the place, but there will be none of that stuff left at the front of the stage,” Noble says.

Asked about playing alongside heavyweight West End performers, Noble says that he’s aware that to be cast in the ensemble means the performers have to be amazing dancers and singers and be able to cover other roles. “To get to be in a show like this involves being the best of the best, so from my point of view, I’m surrounded by these phenomenally talented people and it certainly makes you lift your game. My main talent is knowing how to time a joke,” he adds.

Brooks has told Noble to “just have fun” while Summer Strallen advised the comic to be fearless.

“When you’ve got the creatives saying that, you just go for it and there’s free range to have a ball. Even if I wasn’t in this show I’d say it’s one of the best.”

Noble is signed up for Young Frankenstein until February because he’s committed to a big Australian tour before returning to the UK for a stand-up tour starting in September 2018. “That takes me through to Christmas next year. The tour is called El Hablador because I just thought I’d use a Spanish name. The idea is, ‘Turn off your mobile phones you’re in a Western’ but I’ve been so busy with Young Frankenstein I haven’t thought how I’m going to do it yet. El Hablador means talkative or the storyteller,” he says.

Of course, Noble now has the opportunity to add a song-and-dance section to his stand-up. “You never know. I do love it and there is just something incredibly fun about doing a number with dance moves. There is a link between timing a joke because there’s a rhythm to comedy and if you can sing in tune you can transfer that across.

“I have got fed up of doing interviews where people ask, ‘So, you’re in Young Frankenstein. Do you sing?’ You just go, ‘Oh my God, it’s a bloody musical. Of course I sing’. They reply, ‘Well we thought you’d just be a character in it’. And you reply, ‘No, I actually dance and sing’. Before the rehearsal period began I had weeks and weeks of dance lessons trying to get that up to speed.”

So do you wish Noble the traditional “break a leg” at this point? “You must because it’s the theatre,” he quips.

  • Young Frankenstein, Newcastle Theatre Royal, Saturday, August 26 to Saturday, September 9. Box Office: 08448112121 or www.theatreroyal.co.uk.
  • Then West End’s Garrick Theatre from October 10.