There are plenty of people more qualified than me to write about The Rocky Horror Show Live. In fact, anyone else in attendance at the opening night of this Kelrik production of a 1975 cult classic—especially those sitting in the front row; you know who you are!—could probably provide a far more informed assessment of the show. But I, having never seen the movie, much less the stage version, was a Rocky virgin.
- PHOTO BY DANIELLE DUTRO PHOTOGRAPHY
- SWEET TRANSVESTITE : Kelrik co-founder Erik Austen (in chair) plays transvestite/mad scientist Dr. Frank ‘n’ Furter, in The Rocky Horror Show Live. Mark Rohner (as Riff Raff, far left), Taylor Peters (Magenta, right), and Karyn Blaney (Columbia, far right) are part of his band of misfits.
Surprisingly, though, this fact went relatively unheeded. After hearing stories of “virgin sacrifice” rituals at other productions of the show, where they draw a big V on your forehead and make you go through some sort of kinky initiation rite, I had braced myself for the worst. (Strangely, when I wasn’t singled out for special punishment, I felt almost let down.)
After a pair of luscious disembodied lips huskily admonishes the crowd to “turn off any vibratory devices,” the show, directed by Danielle Dutro, opens to the sweet sounds of “Science Fiction/Double Feature,” sung by a fancy usher and usherette (Mark Rohner and Taylor Peters). Soon, we are introduced to perky, uptight couple Brad Majors, played by CJ Gormley, who always looks a little surprised, and Janet Weiss, played by the waifish, innocent-looking Ali Peters.
Hint: whenever someone says Brad’s name, you are supposed to call out “Asshole!” Whenever someone says Janet, yell “Slut!” Just do it.
The beaming couple gets engaged to the campy love duet “Dammit Janet,” blissfully unaware of the fate that awaits them just a few days later, when, out driving in the middle of nowhere in the pouring rain, their car gets a flat tire. (Here the entire front row put newspapers over their heads, giddily shielding themselves from the pretend storm.) A creepy, foreboding castle just up the road seems the ideal place to knock on the door and ask for help, and as they do, they are met by the ultra-horny, drag-wearing, mad-scientist transvestite Dr. Frank ‘n’ Furter (Kelrik co-founder Erik Austin, baring his soul) and his misfit gang.
An ill-at-ease Brad (“Asshole!”) and Janet (“Slut!”), looking pale and floppy next to this band of corseted, zippered, dog-collared, rouged creatures, try to make a polite exit. But the good doctor’s hospitality will not allow it! So the couple is forced to look on awkwardly as Frank ‘n’ Furter and Co. perform “Over at the Frankenstein Place,” “Sweet Transvestite,” and the pelvic thrust-heavy “Time Warp.”
An intricate set (designed by Austin, constructed by Mark Hughes, with scenic painting by Buffy Doran) successfully evokes the depressing, moldy grandeur of an abandoned palace overrun by Goths.
Under the musical direction of Lacey McNamara, the show’s live band kicked ass. Unfortunately, though, it was often hard to hear the cast’s voices over the music, which was quite annoying in several places.
As Frank ‘n’ Furter, Austin gives his all, squeezing into a corset and fishnets, delivering lines in a breathy, androgynous voice, his mannerisms as queeny as is humanly possible.
Rohner and Peters, the usher and usherette from the beginning of the show, double as servants Riff Raff and Magenta, siblings/lovers from the distant planet Transsexual, in the galaxy of Transylvania.
Like much of the cast, Karyn Blaney, as the groupie Columbia, is cheesy—but to such an extent that her portrayal, like Austin’s costume, threatens to rip at the seams.
But soon enough, Frank unveils a creation he touts as the secret to life itself. Its name is Rocky Horror.
A muscled, grinning, gold-Speedo clad Travis Nefores, who always seems to play some sort of male archetype or another, emerges unsteadily from Rocky’s birth chamber to an uproarious celebration. (Nefores’ bio reads simply, “You’re welcome.”) But the occasion is soon interrupted by the leather-clad Eddie, Columbia’s lover and Rocky’s brain donor.
Michael McKinney, who also appears as the show’s stuffy, smoking jacket-wearing narrator and later as Dr. Scott, Eddie’s uncle and Brad and Janet’s old high school science teacher, delivers an energetic performance as Eddie—before (spoiler!) Frank murders him in a jealous rage and runs off with his creation! The man is insane!
Written by Robert O’Brien, Rocky was one of the first Hollywood films to become a success as a midnight movie. At some point, audiences started dressing up, bringing their own props, and yelling their own lines back at the screen—the latter a tradition that is continued in Kelrik’s stage production. The band, when not playing, hollers out lewd one-liners, encouraging the audience to come up with their own.
We get back from intermission, and suddenly everyone is doing it with everyone else! It’s a sex fest! Frank’s in bed with Janet, who then flips out and runs off looking for Brad, but then, upon discovering that Brad is now in bed with Frank, flees into the oiled, muscular arms of Rocky, singing, “Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch Me!” Rawr! And even then, the show has yet to reach its true climax.
Arts Editor Anna Weltner looks like Susan Sarandon, if she puts on a Susan Sarandon mask and you squint. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.