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Sunday, October 23, 2011

Theatre Review by Keith Waits: "The Rocky Horror Show"


Book, Music & Lyrics by Richard O’Brien
Directed by Michael Drury
Reviewed by Keith Waits

Entire contents are copyright © 2011 Keith Waits. All rights reserved.

I must confess I never cared for the film of this show. No disrespect to the iconic performances of Tim Curry and company. The Rocky Horror Picture Show is often clever but just as often lame and lackluster. To understand what I mean, see any good production of the original stage version to compare and contrast. There happens to be a pretty good one happening right now from Pandora Productions at The Connection Theatre.

This is the third year that director Michael Drury has made this play a Halloween treat, and many of the cast have returned from previous years. But now the setting is the proscenium with thrusting catwalk configuration of The Connection Theatre. For the most part (more about this later), it is a very good space for this show, the large cast (besides the 9 principals, there are is a “phantom” chorus numbering 13) prowling every bit of the stage and lower portions of the audience, once or twice carrying the action into the balcony level as well. It is a lively and audacious staging that fully embraces the essence of Rocky, which, in the words of Mr. Drury, is a “rock musical about sex,” without ever truly crossing the bounds of good taste.

Is a synopsis necessary? The story seems familiar even if you have never seen any previous version, overlaying transvestitism, trans sexuality, bisexuality and orgies over a hotbed of horror movie and sci-fi clichés that seem impossible to have avoided in the deeply self-referential pop culture stew we live in. It all may have been slightly shocking when it debuted in 1973, but now it plays more like good, slightly naughty, fun.

Dan Canon and Susan Crocker as the brother-sister team of Riff-Raff and Magenta were so at ease in these roles, sinister, with a hint of cruelty, as was the vivacious Laura Ellis as Columbia, all three veterans of previous years' productions. Newcomers to the show like Zachary Burrell as Rocky and Kyle Braun and Katie Nuss as Brad and Janet fit right in as if they had been doing these roles for years. The talented Mr. Braun especially proves once again why he is a fixture in local musical theatre. All were in good voice and brought loads of charm and energy to the proceedings. Best of all was Lucas Adams in the dual role of Eddie/Dr. Scott. He was a fine Eddie, rocking “Hot Patootie – Bless My Soul” with style. But it was the hilarious, teutonic Dr. Scott that nearly stole the show, incorporating a few passing references to previous Germanic authority figures like Dr. Strangelove.

Two veteran performers define the whole enterprise with great wit and style. Ted Lesley gives the Narrator just enough distinction that he overcomes the sometimes awkward placement of his interjections in the script, while Eddie D. Lewis plays Frank-N-Furter with real force and moxie – a slight homage to the famous originator of the role, but in the end his own memorable take on the character. His rendition of the climactic “I’m Going Home” was genuinely moving, providing a little emotional heft to a show that otherwise revels in the ridiculous.

The look of the production was marvelously decadent and appropriately fetishistic, mostly due to Shana Lincoln’s sexy costumes, which must have exhausted the available supply of spandex, leather and kinky lingerie in town. Good use was made of screen projections, some called for in the script but some designed to make reference to the film version as well. The three-piece band was tight, although Gayle King’s keyboards, so expertly executed, did not entirely remove my yearning for some chunky guitar chords. This is a good rock score, and it cries out for some rock and roll guitar. Sorry, Gayle.

I do have to quibble with the sound system, which at times dropped out on some seemingly strong singing. Dan Canon’s performance was compromised most when, for example, his line “I’m your new commander…” almost disappeared in the muddy mix. That is not a line you want to miss. Perhaps it was my seat close to the stage; perhaps it was a glitch in individual microphones. But it was an unfortunate recurring problem the night I attended. Very atypical for a Pandora Production too, so perhaps we can have confidence that Mr.Drury’s able technical crew will have such snafus addressed forthwith.

The local theatre scene is filled with good serious theatre right now, but for a rockin’ good time, it would be hard to beat this production, with its high energy and wicked humor. The Connection Theatre includes a Cash Only bar, so you can have a drink or two as well, which is always a good thing.

Ted Lesley as The Narrator in Pandora Productions'
The Rocky Horror Show. Photo courtesy of Pandora Productions.




The Rocky Horror Show
October 20-23, 26-31, 7:30pm
Pandora Productions
At The Connection Theatre
120 S. Floyd Street (enter from Market Street)
Tickets: 502-216-5502
www.PandoraProds.org

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