San Diego, CA.—- Ok, so I am a bit out of touch with cult movies, shock value and the like, but give me a break, I’m not that out of touch that cross dressing sends me into a tailspin and men wearing fish net stockings, high heels, bustiers and corsets; been there seen that! Show me something I have yet to see and then I’ll be shocked.
That said the last place I expected to see Halloween come early with a bevy of big strapping men in that attire, was in the courtyard of the Conrad Preby’s Theatre Center (Old Globe Theatre Complex) for the opening night production of the revival of Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show. Chalk it up to naivety on my part, but in Rocky Horror terms, call it ‘the thing to do’.
And as for audience participation, I could have sworn the couple sitting next to my guest and me all night were part of the show. They were shouting out lines even before the actors on stage were saying them. But then again, it’s The Rocky Horror thing to do and savor it they did. They were one of many who purchased kits sold in the lobby containing necessary props to virtually put them in the show. I was even given a small light to wave every time the word ‘LIGHT’ was spoken on stage. I did my part.
As for the show, well let’s just call it a rerun of an old sci-fi movie on the stage that’s made to please and please it does. “It all started out as an affectionate homage to late night movies and ended up being an affectionately-embraced late-night movie”. Thus Richard O’Brien’s 1970 rock ‘n roll musical began its journey into what it has become; ‘the saga of a successful stage musical turned late-night cult classic’ and folks of all generations that can remember the 70’s embrace it like it happened yesterday. I even caught our own mayor, who was in the audience sitting in front of me on opening night, mouthing the words to the “The Time Warp”. Would that my memory was that acute.
Once upon a time on a rain-drenched night newly weds Brad (Kelsey Kurtz) and Janet (Jeanna de Waal) venture out to find help after they get a flat tire on their way to their honeymoon destination. As luck would have it, they ‘happen’ to see lights (in this otherwise dark and deserted place) coming from a mansion on the side of the road. Carefully, they approach the house. Stop now if you’re a prude!
What happens next is at the heart of the show. Sucked into the mansion/castle before they have a chance to change their minds, Brad and Janet encounter a odd assortment of sex crazed transvestite aliens who cow tow to the directions and lead of a handsome young head of the household Frank ‘N’ Furter. Matt McGrath’s Frank ‘N’ Furter is somewhat of a lightweight who vacillates between his feminine and masculine side and both prove provocatively sexy especially to his groupies.
He’s the seducer and mover of this motley group and in case you couldn’t guess, he’s from transsexual Transylvania. As an aside he is dressed similar to many of those in the audience. (Emily Rebholtz costume designs are appropriately weird). Both Brad and Janet will soon come under his spell (as do the rest) much to their chagrin, astonishment and finally pleasure.
I want to say that what happens in this castle inhabited by alien sex crazed creeps, in this playfully bit of nasty theatre lore stays in the castle. But the cat is out of the bag; the whole world is watching and through a combination (to me anyway) of heavy duty rock’n roll screaming (Kevin Kennedy’ sound design) and unsavory conduct on all sides of the coin under director James Vasquez and JT Horenstein’s musical staging and choreography, nothing stays sacred.
Things proceed faster than the speed of light and with the help of a damn handsome, quite conceited and sexy looking narrator, David Andrew Macdonald tells it like it is and gets prompted along the way by folks like the ones sitting next to me. (No shrinking violet he, he answers back)
I was reminded by a friend who knows ‘Rocky’ inside and out, that the show really stands on its own and doesn’t need audience participation especially for those seeing it for the first time who might find it more distracting in a theatre setting than say a late night movie, but far be it from me to be a party pooper.
Be that as it may, Sydney James Harcourtz’ Rocky (Frank’s lab creation and next in line as lover) is a muscle bound gorgeous hunk of an Adonis undressed to the nines wearing nothing but a pair of gold lame skin tight trunks with lots of ‘stuff’ stuffed into his crotch, with credit again going to Ms. Rebholtz. As you can imagine, the boys and girls are all over him.
Frank’s sidekick groupies include Jason Wooten as Riff Raff, whose voice is too big for the theatre but gets to sings his heart out nonetheless, Laura Shoop is his sister/lover and one of the maids, Magenta and Nadine Isenegger is Columbia another of Frank’s groupies whose tap dance number brings the house down. In fact JT Horenstein’s choreography stands out as some of the best.
Donyale Werle’s busy, nondescript yet gothic flavored set is cluttered with lots of paraphernalia from discarded junk. It takes on the trappings of an old sci-fi movie consisting of gadgets from out of space, lots of Rui Rita’s blinking lights and a long staircase leading to, I’m guessing, the bedrooms where more naughty shenanigans take place.
Settling in upstairs as well is the five-piece band with conductor Mike Wilkins at the Keyboards. Aaron Rhyne’s projections give a nostalgic look into the past. (Yes I did watch Flash Gordon as a teenager) Rui Rita’s lighting worked overtime-highlighting silhouettes of the activities between Janet and Frank and then Brad and Frank. And they were not doing the “Hot Patootie” even though they were in a ‘Time Warp’
All in all, The Old Globe’s mounting of Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show might be puzzling to some, (it was to me) but those who have seen this cult classic and many other facsimiles over the years are still talking about it. Who knew?
If you are in the mood for a bit of an experience, you might want to check it out. It’s not so horrific after all.
See you at the theatre.
Dates: Through Nov. 6th
Organization: Old Globe Theatre
Production Type: Sci-Fi/ Musical
Where: 1363 Old Globe Way, Balboa Park
Ticket Prices: Start at $29.00
Venue: Donald and Darlene Shiley Stage