Maybe only in a Mel Brooks comedy, Shuler Hensley said.

Maybe only in a Mel Brooks comedy, Shuler Hensley said.

"You've got this grotesque, larger-than-life creature," the actor who plays said creature in the touring production of the musical Young Frankenstein said, "and he's pretty much the straight man."

Even better?

"Because of the script, the straighter you try to play it against the obvious silliness, the funnier it gets," Shuler said.

Shuler should know from his Frankenstein monsters, as he played the archetypal version in the 2004 adventure film Van Helsing. The role reunited him with Hugh Jackman, with whom he co-starred (and developed a close friendship) in the Broadway revival of Oklahoma, also as a villain. Shuler's portrayal of Jud Fry served to catapult his career both on stage and screen.

"Playing villains and monsters is like my personal therapy, so I can be calm and normal at home with the kids," Hensley joked. From a professional standpoint, Hensley said, "It's just one of those things. The monsters I've played have all been entirely different."

"I guess when you're as tall as I am and have a low voice...," he remarked with mock self-pity.

Hensley's start on stage began at a young age. His mother was a ballet teacher and director, and had her son performing Fritz in The Nutcracker by age 5.

His father played football at the University of Georgia, so it was natural for Hensley to go straight from football practice to ballet class, "mud, scratches and all."

Despite a background potentially uniquely suited to the role of a monster performing softshoe, nothing could prepare him for the role's greatest challenge.

"Four-inch platform shoes," he said. "It took a long time to get comfortable and still I'm always working at rebalancing."

Hensley said the feel works as the monster, both in look and in character, finding his way in a world in which he's immediately viewed with suspicion.

"Then smack in the middle of the show you get (the monster's dance number) Puttin' on the Ritz, which is 'the' moment where he gets to break out, sort of like a dream sequence," Hensley said. "I've tried to find characteristics of the creature that people can relate to," he explained.

For more from The Beat's interview with Shuler Hensley, read the BeatBlog at www.ThisWeekNews.com.