Thursday, October 10, 2013

Review: (Vancouver) Rocky Horror Show

Some brilliant casting!
But sound problems can’t be ignored
by David C. Jones
There are so many ‘stars’ in this ambitious production of The Rocky Horror Show and the show has such a desire to delight and engage that it is hard to resist. I laughed and clapped and sang-along as did the sold-out audience!

If you don’t know: Brad and Janet have just gotten engaged and they have decided to visit their professor (Dr. Evita Scott – Dr. Everett Scott in the film) to tell her. Unfortunately the clouds are ‘heavy, dark and pendulous’ and soon they are caught in a thunderstorm with a flat tire. Luckily Brad spotted a castle a mile back and before they know it they are in the company of Dr. Frank-N-Furter and his various minions and hangers on. It’s a rather auspicious night, the Dr. is about to birth his muscle bound creature.

Wrap this tribute to 1950’s horror / sci-fi films in 1970’s sexual angst and exploration and add a kickin’ yet kitschy rock & roll soundtrack and you have the cult play that begat a cult movie that lasted for more than 30 years!

Which begat the little theatre company that could Fighting Chance Productions to mount it at the Jericho Arts Centre. A determined and ambitious company, they foster new talent which is attracted by the material they choose.

Seth Little is one of the wickedest and astute singer/actors in town and by act two on opening night he was on fire, deadpan stares and jubilant hedonism created a deliciously fun Frank-N-Furter.  Ray Boulay completely re-imagines the character of Riff Raff into a hilarious resentful but giddy servant with a killer rock sound. Another highlight is the double cast work done by Steffanie Davis as Dr. Evita and her niece Eddie. She knows how to play big but still tethered to truth.

The choreography by Anna Kuman is very athletic and detailed and the cast attacks it with gusto making up for their lack of precision at times.

The audience participation is so much fun (you can buy a prop bag and throw stuff – but no water or lighters are permitted) and the cast will break action to comment or double take as the more experienced ones yell out the joke responses.  The cast of Phantoms sit in the aisles and in some audience member's laps and at the end those who want to are invited up to dance the Time Warp.

The big issue is the sound. The Jericho Arts Centre is not a great venue for musicals because it consumes the sound. You can see that in the group numbers – the entire chorus are singing and you can’t hear most of what they are saying. It doesn’t help that on opening night the band was way too loud (they were otherwise fantastic) and some of the wireless headsets were not working. It’s a musical – at the bare minimum we need to be able to hear the songs. Here is hoping that they can set up some wired micas around the stage for cast members to grab should their headsets conk out again.

The energy and attack by the cast in general is great fun. Seeing them cavort on stage in leather and fetish gear is wicked and as they sing and dance, the sheer verve and joy is palpable. The audience plays and has a great time at a wild and wooly show. If you know the show – re-live it! If you are virgin, go get deflowered

Addendum: Of Bulges and Underwear. 
Rocky Horror is a sexy Queer-positive show. There is a casual sexiness to the script as they sing songs like "Touch A Touch A Touch Me" and  "don’t dream it, be it". Many of the characters are in panties and corsets. Straight men like the experience because all the women wear push-up bras and tight corsets. As a young Gay man I was thrilled by the number of half-naked men in the film, so if there is anyone like me attending – I can’t imagine I was the only person - be warned.

Sure, it was a let down that this Brad (William Hopkins) chose to wear boxer shorts rather than Barry Bostwick's tighty whiteys. Director Ryan Money makes up for it by having four male chorus boys come out and dance behind Mr. Hopkins in Risky Business in white shirts and white skivvys.

But what was going on with Rocky’s gold trunks? Those shorts are iconic. I don’t know if actor Hal Rogers was shy or if the director thought he would send it up but whatever was down those pants were super distracting. It created odd bulges and bumps suggesting a pineapple or a bag of marbles.

I am not being a perv, the show is a perv. It’s a rock and roll show about sex. Modesty won’t work. 

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