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A ‘Frankenstein’ That Never Lived

The show’s human stars included John Carradine, in what would be his last stage role, as the blind beggar.

GIALANELLA Carradine had been doing such crap — B movies, commercials. He was an old man, but he still had that deep, rich, whiskey voice. During previews, Joe rented a screening room and showed us “Frankenstein” and “Bride of Frankenstein” [from 1935, in which Carradine had an uncredited bit part]. Someone turned to him and said: “That’s such a great film. What’s your memory of it?” He stood for a minute and said, “Two days’ work.”

CARRIE ROBBINS, costume designer His hands were so riddled with arthritis he could not dress himself. I had a lovely small-of-stature dresser who was able to hide in the “fireplace” of the old man’s hut and help him out.

The role of Victor Frankenstein went to William Converse-Roberts, a recent Yale Drama School graduate who would be making his Broadway debut. After extensive auditions of other actors, the part of the Creature went to Keith Jochim, who had originated the role in St. Louis.

GIALANELLA Nobody was nailing it. I went to Joe and said, “You’ve got to bring in Keith.” They didn’t want to do it. They wanted someone with at least New York credibility.

MARTORELLA Keith’s audition was incredibly moving. We had 10 minutes, and he ended up reading for a half an hour. Then he came back in the afternoon in the makeup he had designed [for St. Louis]. I wrote in my diary, “He had totally transformed himself into a heap of horror.” I can still see the faces of Tom, Joe and Victor. They were in awe.

The show, began loading in at the Palace on Oct. 23, 1980. The crew started with 15 stagehands, which quickly swelled to three dozen. The start of previews was delayed by the complexity of Douglas Schmidt’s sets, which rotated on a giant turntable, and by issues with effects like the Tesla coil, whose full intensity was ratcheted up over the course of rehearsals.

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