My love for The Rocky Horror Show stems back to high school. I was a shy kid and the classic 70’s cult film was weird, sexy, and made absolutely no sense to me. But damn it felt fun. It led me to a somewhat unhealthy fixation with the film and soundtracks, attendance of a few “shadow cast” showings of the film in college, and a general acceptance of things that are gross and weird. So when a stage production (no movie, no lip-syncing) went up at the Cabaret, nostalgia hit hard and I knew I was gonna have to see it (although this time I didn’t wear my “sexy” torn up jeans I wore in college).
But enough of me. Rocky Horror is put on by the relatively new PARK Productions, a group composed of current/recent theater college students. They are borrowing the space at the CLO Cabaret downtown and in turn are borrowing the set from Boeing Boeing. For any other show this could prove awkward, but Rocky Horror sells in “unconventional” (get it?) settings. Have you seen pictures of the original stage show? There was a Coke machine in the center of the stage, the actors held microphones with cords…it never has to look flashy. There are virtually no additional set pieces (save for some cardboard lab equipment), and there doesn’t have to be. The story itself doesn’t make sense, so nothing else needs to.
What drives this production is the energy from its cast and its audience. The narrator for the evening is a crotchety old woman (Nick Onesko) who presents the story like it’s a talent show at a retirement home. She warns the audience not to do all the classic callbacks from the movie, as they won’t all make sense. That was a slightly different vibe from college when I would scream my lungs out, but I obliged. Some people did their own callbacks, and Onesko countered all of them with a quick and vile wit that never failed to slay the audience. His slow speech and foul mouth would calmly shut down anyone who tried to one-up him with comments (one girl kept trying but he eventually ended it with a graphic comment about her. It was glorious.) I will say, while it’s tradition to yell “Asshole” at Brad Majors and “Slut” at Janet Weiss, the audience my night took that to an almost aggrivating level by shouting those out every time the names were mentioned, which is a lot. Back in MY day we just did callbacks at the FULL name. Kids today are just so free with their “asshole”s.
Director and PARK Productions founder Mason Alexander Park plays the iconic role of Dr. Frank N Furter, an alien transsexual who just wants to have a good time. If I had to describe his performance I’d say it had some brassiness of Cher, the hair of Liza Minelli, the singing of Adam Lambert, and a splash of the great original Tim Curry. Park makes the role his own, creating a character somewhere between male and female, human and alien, but never failing to ooze confidence and sexiness. He crushes the classic entrance of “Sweet Transvestite” and shines all the way to Frank’s swan song finale “I’m Going Home.” In a play that is totally absurd, “I’m Going Home” is the one chance for a genuine somber moment and I think nailing that is a sign of success for a Rocky production.
The rest of the cast is game for anything, which is good when the audience is constantly shouting out things. Technical snafus would be a terrifying and stressful problem in most plays, but in Rocky wardrobe malfunctions and late sound cues are embraced, addressed, and turned into a laugh. The whole cast has fun with the crowd, walking through the tables during pre-show and running around them during musical numbers. Frank’s creature, the blonde beauty Rocky Horror (Robert Briner), has particular fun as he grins at audience callbacks he likes and casually sits at tables with patrons during numbers.
The classic (well…infamous) songs all get wailed out of the park, the way they should be because Rocky is about being fun and showboating a little. Brandon Keith Rogers does a soulful rendition of “Once in a While”, Brad’s song no one ever remembers because it was cut from the movie. Keaton Jadwin plays the creepy handyman Riff Raff with some crazy blonde hair and a crazier falsetto, always a good way to start off the big number “The Time Warp”. Gender-bending the role of Dr. Scott is Xandra Schultz, who adds some impressive operatic singing to the part, all while sitting in a wheelchair.
Rocky Horror has always been nonsensical silly sexy fun and PARK Productions brings all that with a wonderful energy (the show is done sans intermission but doesn’t feel long). I advise going if you’re in the mood for a late show where you can yell, hear dirty jokes, and take in some great singing. The majority of the audience appeared to be college students, but if you’re a fan of the silly show you’ll feel right at home no matter how old you are. That’s the beauty of Rocky Horror.
The Rocky Horror Show is playing four more shows: Thursday April 9th, Saturday April 11th, and two ADDED dates on the 16th and 18th. Shows start at 11pm. Tickets can be purchased here for this week’s shows, or you can call ahead or buy at the door.
*The original published article spelled Robert Briner’s name as “Brimer” and has since been corrected. We apologize for any confusion.