The Rocky Horror Show began life as a midsummer night treat presented in London’s Royal Court Theatre’s “fringe” room, Theatre Upstairs in 1973. It was only meant to run for a few weeks, but its blend of campy kitsch caught on, and the first London run continued for a total of seven years. Since then, its been revived numerous times, and, of course, became the ultimate audience participation film (the title duly amended to The Rocky Horror Picture Show).
But along the way, something got lost. Funny, campy — yes, but it also seemed to have been forgotten that Rocky was also a sexy show, and never meant to be family entertainment. Open Circle Theater’s production takes Rocky back to its roots, and in more ways than one; the theater space is certainly smaller than the room where the original London production debuted.
It starts with a slovenly Magenta who ushers patrons into the theater with a glower. Aside from the clean cut, all American Brad and Janet, the rest of the cast wears bondage gear, the more revealing the better (it goes without saying the show is a voyeuristic delight). There aren’t any winks or nods to say “Yes, we’re camping it up for you! We mean this all ‘ironically’”; this is sex in all its good old sleaziness, as if the denizens of the local strip club had been tumbled onto the stage for your pleasure. Even the narrators give you the eye as they slouch around the room.
For those who don’t know the story, Rocky Horror is a send up of the “old dark house” cliché of horror films, with a little of Frankenstein and his monster thrown in, though in this case Dr. Frank N. Furter is (as the song puts it) a “Sweet Transvestite” (from Transsexual, Transylvania), who’s created his creature out of more than purely scientific desires. As Frank, Josh Hartvigson parades in a stately fashion (or maybe the heels are too high and he’s being careful?) and wore a thong that was so tight it made some men in the audience noticeably twitch. Tadd Morgan’s Brad has the show’s best singing voice; other performers tend to shout rather than sing, with Peter Farrar’s Rocky faring the worst — though this isn’t too much of an issue, as Rocky’s the show’s designated dumb blonde and isn’t required to do more than that. But every cast member throws themselves with gusto into their roles, especially in the orgy sequences.
Because Rocky, like Grease, became such a celebrated film, the show is frequently tinkered with to reflect the audience’s familiarity with the movie. This production is no different; whereas in the original stage show the “Sweet Transvestite” number precedes the “Time Warp,” in this production the song order is reversed — as it is in the movie. On the other hand, the song “Once In A While,” which was in the stage show but not the film, is presented here. And there are other changes purists/fanatics will note. The show’s nudity isn’t unexpected, but it does occur at unexpected moments (which won’t be spoiled for you here). Though usually presented in one act, this production splits the show in two, thus enhancing alcohol sales and resulting in a much rowdier crowd for the second act.
In short, this isn’t your parents’ Rocky Horror — thank goodness. The show’s inherent lustiness is put right back where it belongs, center stage (there’s a reason why no one under 18 is admitted). None of yer childish folderol like rice throwing is allowed either. The show closes on April 16. So don’t dream it — see it!
Open Circle Theater