From the moment my friends and I settled in our seats at The Boiler Room Theatre for Saturday night’s performance of The Rocky Horror Show, we were filled with antici…(say it)…pation. Thanks to the brilliant staging, gorgeous costumes and some of best vocal performances I’ve seen on stage in Nashville or anywhere else, we were not disappointed.
For their interpretation of Richard O’Brien‘s horror/comedy/musical stage show send-up that got its start in London back in 1973, The Boiler Room‘s intimate 120-seat theatre has been transformed into, well, an old-school movie theatre, complete with a movie screen high atop the stage. Prior to the live performance the audience enjoyed vintage concession stand animation; you know, the one with the dancing popcorn. Then, as the audience waiting for the main attraction to begin, we were treated to clips of classic and not-so-classic horror movies. All this was the perfect prelude to one of the most fun night’s of live theatre I’ve ever experienced. For a minimal fee, you can even purchase a bag of props to be used during key scenes, just like they’ve done during both the live performances and movie screenings since the 70s.
Continuing to build on the antici…(say it)…pation, the screen and theatre went black and then, just like in the 1975 now-cult-classic film’s opening sequence, a pair of ruby-red lips appeared on-screen. A clever bit of theatre business was spewed forth, then the equally clever credits for The Boiler Room‘s cast and crew were projected on the screen, mimicking the film’s opening.
Those lips come to life in the persona of Melodie Madden Adams when, dressed as a movie usherette, she strolls down the staircase singing Science Fiction/Double Feature, the show’s opening number. I was thrilled to see Adams onstage, having seen her in a number of Boiler Room productions over the years. I love the over-exaggerated details costume designer Billy Ditty included in all the costumes for the show, but Adams‘ Usherette in particular. Complete with epaulettes reminiscent of Carol Burnett‘s Gone With The Wind‘I saw it in the window and just had to have it‘ parody, Adams‘ Usherette costume sets the pace for the rest of the cast’s attire. It was great to see costumes inspired by, but not completely re-hashed from those remembered in the film. It was also refreshing to hear Adams‘ pitch-perfect vocals from the get-go, also setting a high standard for her castmates.
Then it was time for another familiar tune, well, familiar if you’ve seen The Rocky Horror Picture Show dozens of times like I have, when newly engaged Brad (Mike Baum) and virginal Janet (Britt Byrd) become engaged to the tune of Damn It, Janet.
The familiar fun continues when our unsuspecting duo happen upon the mysterious Frankenstein mansion. Baum plays nerdy Brad to perfection, and like most nerds, he possesses an unexpected talent. No, I’m not talking about something Dr. Frank N. Furter discovers in the lab, or Brad‘s bed chamber, Baum‘s voice is great.
Of his second act solo, something not seen in the film adaptation, director Megan Murphy Chambers cited it as her favorite, “Not only is it a lovely piece of music, but its placement allows for a nice breath before the impending chaos.” She went on to say, “A couple of elements make this number fabulous in our production specifically – Mike Baum, our Brad, is an outstanding singer (who rocks his uptight briefs nicely, as well), and an unexpected set of costumes for our Transylvanian chorus. I don’t want to ruin the surprise, so you’ll just have to see what appears stage left.”
Equally enjoyable is Britt Byrd in her Boiler Room Theatre debut as virgin-to-vamp Janet , who, like her costar Baum, spends much of her on-stage time in her unmentionables. About halfway through the show, I remembered seeing her in her Circle Players‘ debut a couple of years ago, in which she coincidentally played the equally undressed Brooke in their production of Noises Off. OK, so she looks good scantily clad, but she’s also got amazing comedic talent and a great voice. Her facial expressions when face-to-bulging muscle with Rocky are priceless. Her duet with Baum in Damn It, Janet is delightful, as is the next number, Over at the Frankenstein Place.
Part of why Over at the Frankenstein Place is so much fun are Jeremy Maxwell, Brandon McCabe, Corrie Miller andEvelyn O’Neal Brush who do double duty throughout the play as Dr. Frank N. Furter‘s seductively, slinky minions and, at time, formerly inanimate objects. That’s right, Maxwell, McCabe, Miller and Brush bring things like Brad and Janet‘s car, the mansion’s front door, an iron gate and hi-tech medical equipment to life, courtesy of some tongue-in-cheek play acting.
As for the other inhabitants of Dr. Frank N. Furter”s laboratory, Adams reappears as Magenta, the not-so-devoted chamber maid. In the role of Magenta‘s evil-plot hatching, double-crossing brother/fellow alien/accomplice Riff Raff is Patrick Kramer. Jordan Tudor is the epitome of groupie/party girl/druggie as Columbia. Ryan Leyhue serves up Eddie (rocker Meatloaf in the 1975 film) with a great impression of the rocker. He not only rocks, but rolls in the dual role of Dr. Scott. Kyle Mothershead embodies Rocky to perfection. Gotta love the fact that he’s a lawyer by day, trading in legal briefs for skimpy gold lame as Dr. Frank N. Furter‘s near-perfect Charles Atlas-inspired creation. Those who frequent The Boiler Room will no-doubt recognize Alan Lee as The Narrator, as he provides just the right about of staunch authority and snide commentary to the role. Making his Nashville theatrical debut is Geoff Davin as Dr. Frank N.Furter.
Everyone in the cast is fantastic, and thanks to director Megan Murphy Chambers, they each have their own moment to shine. From the subtle scene-stealing robotic movements of Mothershead‘s Rocky, to Davin‘s apparent homage to Tallulah Bankhead as everyone’s favorite Transexual from Transylvania..uh…uh, the show is filled with quirky performance from that first glimpse of Frank‘s castle to the final escape.
Special mention must be made of Kramer and Davin. My friends and I were completely under Dr. Frank N. Furter‘s spell from the moment Davin took to the stage in tattered fishnets and bustier. Yes, befitting the role and Tim Curry‘s legendary interpretation on both the London stage and subsequent film, Davin‘s performance was expectedly outrageous, but completely backed up by a fantastic vocal performance. Davin brings the right amount of camp and not-so-ambiguous sexuality to the role of Frank and his vocals during his two big numbers, Sweet Transvestite andI Can Make You A Man are fabulous. As are his gravity-defying hair and those do-me heels he manages to walk in throughout the show.
One of the first times I remember seeing Kramer on-stage was as nebbish J. Pierrepont Finch in The Boiler Room’s production of How to Succeed In Business Without Really Trying back in 2005. I also remember him from more recent turns as the equally socially awkward Felix Unger in the now-defunct Nashville Dinner Theatre‘s The Odd Couple and a few others roles. Before seeing Rocky Horror, I had heard Kramer‘s name attached to current production and must confess I assumed he would be playing Brad. Much to my delight, Patrick, sans glasses and sporting a platinum blonde punk haircut, is spot-on as Riff Raff. His vocal performance is among the show’s strongest, not to mention, he plays one heck of a convincing twisted freak.
Can’t talk about Riff Raff without again mentioning Ditty‘s costumes. During the show’s, forgive the pun, climatic scene featuring Adams and Kramer as the seemingly nearly incestuous aliens (elbow sex, elbow sex), take note of subtle, but hilarious sex-organ-shaped designs of their cd-embellished costumes. Too funny.
Aside from the previously mentioned Science Fiction/Double Feature and Damn It, Janet, other notable numbers include: Hot Patootie, Touch-A, Touch-A Touch Me, I’m Going Home and of course the hands-on-your-hips, pelvic-thrusting Time Warp.
The post-curtain call Time Warp redo requires audience partici…..(say it)…pation, and in doing so, is a large part of why The Rocky Horror Show at The Boiler Room Theatre is such fun. Just as audiences have done for nearly forty years, everyone in the theatre was encouraged to get up and out of their seats for an all-in Time Warp reprise.
The Rocky Horror Show continues at The Boiler Room Theatre with a SOLD OUT show Thursday, October 27. Limited seats available for Friday & Saturday, October 28 & 29 and a special Halloween performance on Monday, October 31. CLICK HERE to purchase tickets, or call the box office at 615.794.7744.
I’d love it if The Boiler Room would consider continuing The Rocky Horror Show on a regular basis. As we were leaving the theatre, my friends and I were all talking about how much fun it would be coming back week after week to do the Time Warp again and again. Who knows, maybe someone should start a facebook page Keep Rocky Horror at The Boiler Room Theatre. Until then…
Up next at The Boiler Room Theatre is the 1960 British musical and 1963 multiple Tony-award winning Broadway hit, Oliver! featuring music, lyrics and book by Lionel Bart. Oliver! will run from November 18- December 23 with weekly performances Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, select Thursday shows at 8pm on December 1, 8, 15 and 22 and 2pm Sunday matinees November 20 & 27 and December 4, 11 & 18. For tickets and information on Oliver!, CLICK HERE.