By Sue Morgan
The Rocky Horror Picture Show has been an audience favorite since it first premiered in London 49 years ago. The production made its US debut in Los Angeles in 1974.
Rocky pays sexually lurid and comical homage to science fiction and horror B movies of the 1930s-60s. After a film version was released in 1975, some independent and art-house theatres began a tradition of showing the film on a weekly basis, usually at midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. Audience members came dressed as their favorite characters and stood in front of the screen, performing in tandem with the film’s characters, while other members of the audience threw rice and toilet paper and sprayed one another with squirt guns (among other antics) inspired by the action onscreen. Both the film and theatrical versions are often resurrected – pun intended – around Halloween.
…a high energy romp…
The plot follows virginal and naïve newly engaged couple Brad and Janet who, after a flat tire on a stereotypically dark and stormy night, seek assistance at the nearest location, a creepy and foreboding mansion. Arriving drenched and more than a little afraid, they’re greeted at the door by butler-cum-ghoul Riff Raff who lures them into the dwelling with the promise of using the phone.
Mayhem ensues as the master of the house Dr. Frank-N-Furter, mad scientist and self-proclaimed “transvestite from Transexual, Transylvania,” replete in corset, fishnet stockings and outlandishly high heels, appears and invites Brad and Janet to his lab where, he sings, “I’ve been making a man with blond hair and a tan, and he’s good for relieving my tension.” The Frankensteinian man in question is the titular Rocky Horror.
The Marin Musical Theatre Company’s production – performed at Novato Theatre Company – is a high energy romp with exuberantly exaggerated simulated sex acts not at all appropriate for children, but very entertaining for mature audiences, especially those who appreciate camp with a capital C.
The show begins with a costume contest (winners get a brief cameo in the production) after which cast members give the audience a dance lesson to induct those new to Rocky into the fine art of performing the “Time Warp,” a raucous number involving expansive gesticulations and pelvic thrusts. The audience is also apprised of the tradition of spectators to heckle the actors during the production by shouting out prescribed and extemporaneous responses prompted by names of characters and other trigger words spoken by members of the cast. These proceedings successfully elevated the energy level in the house, ensuring the audience was excited for what was to come.
The cast was cohesive and mostly convincing in their respective roles. Stephen Kanaski did an outstanding job as Dr. Frank-N-Furter, combining seething sexual panache with the ability to strut like a runway model in ridiculously high heels. Added bonus: he can sing like there’s no tomorrow.
Sleiman El-Ahmadieh nailed his character, Brad, whose awakening from naivety to carnal rapture – and also his transformation from nerdy wimp to insatiable stud – were a pleasure to watch, and among the highlights of the show. Jenny Boynton’s voice and mannerisms were just right for Janet. Standouts characters include the Narrator (sultry Shayla Lawlor), Dr. Frank-N-Furter’s servant Columbia (Harriet Pearl Fugitt), and Magenta (Anna Vorperian), incestuous sibling of Riff Raff (Nelson Brown ). They all did fine work anchoring each scene with their sexy antics and wonderful vocal abilities.
Brown was appropriately creepy as Frank-N-Furter’s handyman/henchman, especially when fondling his sibling, Magenta. Ken Adams showed his wonderful versatility as wheelchair-bound Dr. Scott and biker/rocker/undead lover of Columbia, Eddie. Had I not anticipated having Rocky portrayed as a muscle-bound blond god in gold lame briefs, I would have loved Anne Clark’s female version, with her vacuous physicality and almost innocent sexuality. Ensemble members added a wonderful energy and vitality to the overall production. The addition of their voices helped each song reach an almost fever pitch of intensity.
Jenny Boynton’s spot-on choice of actors and direction made the production sizzle, as did Katie Wickes’ choreography. The spare setting worked within the parameters of the production. Daniel Savio’s musical direction was on point and all members of the band performed well. Krista Lee’s costuming was wonderfully true to the original show and film. Sound mixing by Simon Eves and lighting design by Michael Kessell lent a wonderful sinister ambience to the production.
Audience members are encouraged to dress in costume, to contribute to heckling the cast, and are given a list of suggested items to bring to the show in order to fully immerse themselves in the Rocky Horror Show experience. If you love over-the-top, sexually explicit, profanity-laced, hard-rocking theatre this show is for you!
Masks and proof of vaccination are required. Remember, no children allowed!
|The Rocky Horror Show!
|Marin Musical Theater Company
|Thru Oct. 31st
|Novato Theatre Co.
5420 Nave Dr. Novato, CA 94949
|$35 – $60
|Max in each category is 5/5
|Aisle Seat Review PICK?