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The Rocky Horror Show
a Musical
by Richard O’Brien

COMPANY : Out Front Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Brady Street Theater [WEBSITE]
ID# 5159

SHOWING : October 19, 2017 - November 05, 2017



Complete with sass from the audience, cascading toilet paper, and an array of other audience participation props, this deliberately kitschy rock ’n’ roll sci-fi gothic musical is more fun than ever.

Director Matthew Busch
Magenta Joe Arnotti
Riff-Raff Caty Bergmark
Columbia Emily Duke
Janet Weiss Ally Duncan
Frank N Furter Kiona D. Reese
Eddie/Dr. Scott Joshua Lee Robinson
Phantom Megan Wartell
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No Virgins Permitted
by playgoer
Monday, October 23, 2017
"The Rocky Horror Show" is best known for midnight, participatory showings of its movie version, "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Out Front Theatre Company is attempting to capitalize on this cult status by selling prop bags stocked with a subset of the items thrown in movie theatres. It’s a pretty lame selection, and the audience seems to lose interest in participating after the first couple of items.

Out Front is also attempting to capitalize on the phenomenon of rock concerts in which the sound levels deafen and flashy effects predominate over understandable lyrics. Here, the effects aren’t all that special, with occasional puffs of stage smoke that immediately ascend to the ceiling, and Daniel Pope’s incompetent sound design distorts almost every word that is sung and hides the vocals under Nick Silvestri’s first-rate musical accompaniment. Consequently, important plot points are indecipherable, and Matthew Busch’s direction does nothing to clarify visually what is happening in the story.

Spoken dialogue can be heard more clearly, but that isn’t an unalloyed benefit to this production. The role of the narrator is filled at each performance by a different guest, and the result can be narration that is amateurish in quality and does not flow naturally. It’s just another gimmick thrown willy-nilly at a script that is not allowed to tell its story unencumbered by an intrusive directorial concept.

Charles Swift’s set design consists of scaffolding and a few set pieces on wheels. The prop car is cute (props by Troy Meyers), and a laboratory console shows some promise, but otherwise the set indicates a bare-bones budget. Mr. Swift’s lighting design has a nice set of zap effects near the end, but often relies on general lighting that doesn’t illuminate much of anything onstage. With sound coming primarily from speakers on the edges of the stage, it can be difficult to pick out the person onstage whose lips are moving in semi-murkiness.

Jay Reynold’s costume design, on the other hand, suggests an enormous budget. The outfits are stunning in design and execution, getting more and more elaborate as the show goes on. The shoe budget alone, for men’s size stilettos, would appear to be mind-boggling. Brightly colored boas for every cast member show up by the finale, making for a stunning visual spectacle, enhanced by Edward Holifield’s hair and makeup design. The costumes are definitely the highlight of the show.

Performances are generally over the top, and not always in a good way. Kiona Reese in particular, as Frank N. Furter, emotes like a third-rate community theatre performer. Tim Curry made this role a star vehicle, but Ms. Reese didn’t even get applause for her first number at the performance I attended until drag queen extraordinaire Joe Arnotti prompted it. Mr. Arnotti’s ease onstage and in drag contrasts with Kendrick Taj Stephens’ apparent uneasiness in heels and dominatrix attire. Mr. Stephens’ fellow Phantom, Patrick Coleman, on the other hand, laps up drag like an eager greyhound. The unevenness of the cast adds to the impression that the show lacks a strong directorial touch in its details.

The one person in the cast I could understand in almost all conditions was Jacob Jones as Brad Majors. His performance is tuned to just the right frequency, marrying sincerity with slightly buffoonish heroism in a delightful mixture. Ally Duncan, as Janet Weiss, also does well, but tends to overact a tad, accompanying that with powerful vocals that overwhelm the sound system and muddy her lyrics. Everyone in the cast seems to have a good voice, but sound levels and late body mike cues make it difficult to judge.

Aside from Frank N. Furter, actors seem to be cast relatively well for their roles. Max Mattox is a buff, endowed Rocky Horror with a pleasing personality. Josh Robinson is suitably doughy as Eddie and Dr. Scott. Emily Duke throws herself into the role of Columbia, while Caty Bergmark underplays Riff-Raff until the final scene. All move well, including female Phantoms Megan Poole and Megan Wartell, although Jordan Keyon Smith’s choreography seems to leave a lot of room for personal expression, adding to the uneven feel of the production.

"The Rocky Horror Show" doesn’t have the clearest plotline and relies on its frequent musical numbers to maintain its forward momentum. In Out Front’s production, the muddiness of the lyrics and fuzziness of direction make this a horrible introduction to the musical. It seems intended only for die-hard film fans who want a wan reproduction of the cultish movie-going experience, not "virgins" who have never attended the movie, unless that virgin wants his/her first time to swear them off Rocky Horror sex for good. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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