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THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW Avon Theatre/Stratford Festival
By
Jun 10, 2018, 22:48
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Stratford Festival
Through Oct. 31
THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW Avon Theatre/Stratford Festival

“The Rocky Horror Picture Show” qualifies as a cult movie.
Of course, the movie is built on the original stage show, Richard O’Brien’s “The Rocky Horror Show.”
Both are worth seeing, although I’ve never felt they made much sense and you are never sure O’Brien and the people who put the movie together had any idea of what they were doing.
After seeing the Stratford production and recovering my hearing, I’m still not sure what it’s all about, but: What the hell?
Director and choreographer Donna Feore also has the far, far, far more conventional “The Music Man” on the Festival Theatre stage.
On the Avon stage, she lifted all the rules and threw piles of cash at a high-tech, incredibly loud and amazing production of “Horror Show.”
Costume designer Dana Osborne, lighting designer Michael Walton and set designer Michael Gianfrancesco were clearly told: Make it work.
It does.
The night I saw the show, the sold-out audience was filled with people dressed for “Rocky Horror” and offering call-and-response enthusiasm support.
It has to be very hard for the cast to have those interrupting comments from the audience, some geared to the script and some general comments, especially to Narrator Steve Ross, who wanders on and off the stage in various levels of dress to offer comments about what’s going on.
At least, he seems to know.
Okay, let’s set the scene: special friends Janet (Jennifer Rider-Shaw) and Brad (Sayer Roberts) are out together when the car breaks down and he produces a ring and asks her to marry him.
After looking at the ring and deciding its retail value, she says: Yes.
Then, they decide to get help by walking to this distant castle and walk into: What?
Apparently, Dr. Frank N. Furter (Dan Chameroy) has been building a boy toy and cuts up people for the parts, to build the perfect blond muscle man Rocky (George Krissa).
O’Brien was clearly obsessed with horror and Fifties science fiction movies and certainly you see blatant evidence of the connections to “Frankenstein,” at least “Frankenstein: The Novel.’
There’s even his assistant, here Riff Raff (Robert Markus) and his sister Magenta (Erica Peck).
Frank?
Well, Frank would never have passed the old Hollywood production code, as a bisexual, cross-dressing rock star.
If you have never heard of this show and decide it will fill a slot on your Stratford ticket schedule, think about it.
While this was a social shock show when it first opened 45 years ago, it’s still a social shock to many people as well as to their hearing.
The music?
The songs aren’t much although they are getting a blasting production and strong Feore choreography.
There are a couple of fine voices, especially Roberts and Peck’s Usherette.
No matter how many times you have seen “Rocky Horror,” the best thing to do is sit back and relax and let it flow over you and not worry too much about the (tenuous) plot and on-screen events.
You can also wonder about the end of the plot and what that’s all about.
Feore has come a long way from dancing in the old Gilbert & Sullivan musicals to electronic sex and rock but shows she knows how to make it all work.
One of the curses of low-budget versions of “Rocky Horror” is cast weakness, you know, some roles filled with people who can’t do it, although Dr. Frank N. Furter is fine.
There are no weaknesses in the Stratford production and some wonderful work, Chameroy, Krissa, Rider-Shaw and Roberts and the musical back-ups, the Phantoms.
It’s really amazing what Stratford’s resources can do to turn an utterly confusing and tangled musical into a wonderful production and that’s what “The Rocky Horror Show” is.

A.W.

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