Roger Bart
(© Joseph Marzullo/WENN)
Roger Bart
(© Joseph Marzullo/WENN)
Being on the road can be a headache for some actors, but Roger Bart is feeling quite relaxed these days. The Tony Award-winning actor, who is once again playing Dr. Fredrick Frankenstein -- this time in the national tour of Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein -- which is stopping at Chicago's Cadillac Palace Theatre from November 3 to December 13, is not letting the tour's constant assembling of parts into a living, breathing behemoth of a musical rattle him. Far from it, in fact.

"One of the great things about the road is it's the primary focus of your life," says Bart. "The reason we're out here -- in addition to making money -- is to put on the show. When you're sitting in a hotel room or a corporate apartment, there's just not as many distractions in your life. So, in some ways, the show has a different kind of energy than it did on Broadway. I remember days when I had to exert enormous amounts of energy because of yard work or stresses or stuff at home. But at the end of the day, you've still got this three-hour monster ahead of you, and you're already a little bit fried, because you tried to do too much."

Bart, who originated the title role of the sexually deprived, spiky-haired scientist on Broadway in 2007, is in a comfort zone for another reason: He is reunited on tour with two of his Great White Way co-stars, Shuler Hensley as the Monster and Cory English as Igor, while Brad Oscar, who appeared with Bart in Broadway's The Producers, is on board as Inspector Kemp. (Frankenstein's romantic rivals are played by Beth Curry as fiancee Elizabeth and Anne Horak as the haypile-romping Inga, while formidable Frau Blucher is taken on by Joanna Glushak.) "I am very lucky to have them around me and hope they feel the same," gushes Bart, whose laugh is sometimes a literal "heh-heh" to cue you for a punchline or to suggest he has something to hide. "At least, they'd better feel the same."

Shuler Hensley and Roger Bart in Young Frankenstein
(© Paul Kolnik)
Shuler Hensley and Roger Bart in Young Frankenstein
(© Paul Kolnik)
Bart, who grew up in the leafy suburbs of Princeton and Bernardsville, New Jersey, is the youngest of four children. His brainy, MIT-educated parents decamped for Martha's Vineyard as soon as they realized Bart's tuition at Rutgers University wouldn't mean a second mortgage. "I don't know how the hell I came out of that family," he admits. "There's a whole theory that my brothers and sister told me -- which is that a policeman dropped me off at the front door. If not for my eyebrows being like my dad's, I'd actually believe it." In addition, being last in line also meant that Bart had to fight for his family's attention. "I was the person pounding on the table, saying, 'Listen to me, watch me, laugh at everything I do!' which is, inevitably, an easy transition to being on stage," he notes.

The stage has been Bart's home for over two decades now -- he made his Broadway debut in the original production of Big River -- but the ever-busy actor hasn't been on a full-fledged road tour since 1996, when he played Bud Frump in the revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, starring Ralph Macchio of Happy Days and Karate Kid fame. As Bart recalls, the musical's title didn't register with many folks, who assumed Macchio was spearheading some kind of get-rich seminar. "They had no idea it was a musical," he recalls. "They thought Ralph had taken a terrible and odd turn in his career."

Things are different this time around. So far, the audience response has been "thrilling," says Bart. He's also been awed by the community pride being lavished on the many vaudeville houses and cinemas, now converted into state-of-the-art theaters, he's encountered on the road. "They're acoustically dynamic and they're beautiful," says Bart. "Sometimes you walk into some of these towns and they look like they need a little love, and you go into the local theater and it's like a jewel."