Like most stage productions, musicals demand a certain decorum from the audience. One can hum familiar tunes (softly), tap one’s toes (discreetly), or sway (slightly) to the music, but overt shows of enthusiasm are generally not encouraged.
Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show is not your usual stage production or musical, as anyone who has witnessed its performances at the Avon this year already knows. This is a musical where audience participation is encouraged in the form of dress-up, movement and ongoing feedback, all of which have formed a part of the show’s appeal since it first hit the London stage in 1973. But perhaps, under director Donna Feore’s extraordinary attention, this Rocky Horror Show is not your usual Rocky Horror Show either, but a particularly fine production of the zany, far-out and inhibition-releasing cult show.
How can you take it seriously? Brad (Sayer Roberts) and Janet (Jennifer Rider-Shaw), two love-struck but rather inhibited and conventional young people, are caught in a thunderstorm on a dark and fateful night (as hilariously pompous narrator Steve Ross informs us) on their way home from a wedding. One of their car’s tires gets a flat – just outside what appears to be a rather imposing castle. They take shelter in this and soon experience, for better or worse, events far outside what is termed their “comfort zone” as they enter a parallel universe dominated by Transylvanian master Frank N. Furter, (the very embodiment of camp as portrayed by Dan Chameroy), and his followers Riff Raff (Robert Markus), Magenta (Erica Peck) and Columbia (Kimberly-Ann Truong).
In the midst of all this there is the exuberant emergence of Frank’s creation Rocky (George Krissa) and the dark demise of the weird Eddie (Trevor Patt) – neither of which belongs to realistic drama and neither of whom we need to be invested with (though Krissa’s Rocky is undeniably cute).
What goes on in the castle stays in the castle (despite the best efforts of Dr. Everett Scott, played by Trevor Patt) but it proves to be a lot of fun while it lasts. Regrettably nothing lasts forever and, all too soon, Frank’s extraterrestrial tenure ends as his mission on earth – whatever it was – comes to its conclusion.
Did I mention the music?
Weeks after the show, you will remember Erica Peck’s wonderfully elegiac Science Fiction, along with the company’s irresistible Time Warp, the Frankenstein-allusive I Can Make you A Man, Brad’s Once in a While, and the truly evocative I’m Coming Home – not to mention all the other suggestive and pop- culture-literate songs that are an integral part of the show. The sets by Michael Gianfrancesco, costumes by Dana Osborne, and music direction by Laura Burton all complement the action in ways that are outstanding without being intrusive, allowing the story, with all its weird twists, to play out to maximum effect.
It is part of Feore’s magic to be able to elicit consistently fine performances from all of her cast and Rocky Horror Show is no exception in this regard. Personally I found Steve Ross’ Narrator particularly hilarious, Kimberly-Ann Truong’s Columbia especially brilliant and amazing in its unpredictable antics and George Krissa’s beguiling new man Rocky outstandingly appealing, but you will probably also have favorites in this strong ensemble performance.
Once you have experienced The Rocky Horror Show once you may want to do so again… and again. It’s a musical a lot of people like to be involved with, and Donna Feore’s production of it is a great opportunity to either start or continue this personal tradition!
Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show continues at the Avon Theatre