The Rocky Horror Show: Neo-opsis Review
The Rocky Horror Show
RKO Productions. Victoria, BC. October 2015
The Metro Studio Theatre, 1141 Quadra Street
RJ Peters as Brad Majors
Sarah Anne Murphy as Janet Weiss
Griffin Lea as “Dr. Frank N’ Furter”
Kelly Hudson as “Riff Raff”
Candace Woodland as “Columbia”
Kiaran McMillan as “Rocky”
Jaqueline McLaughlin as “The Narrator”
Jana Morrison as “Magenta”
Jacob Richmond as both “Eddie” and “Dr. Scott”
Phantoms: Sadie Evans, Jane Gaudet, John Han, Vaughn Naylor
Creeps: Lori Grant, Eddi Wilson
Director: Britt Small
Choreographer: Sarah Anne Murphy
Musical Direction: John Han
Producer: Griffin Lea
Production Manager: Kelly Hudson
Marketing Director: Candace Woodland
Production/Set/Costume Designer: James Insell
Assistant Production Designer: Brady Taylor
Lighting Designer: R. J. Peters
Sound Technician: Gregory Smith
Stage Manager / Sound Design: Noelle Antonsen
Assistant Stage Manager: Julie Forrest
Assistant Producer / Volunteer Coordinator / Program: Astrid Sidaway-Wolf
I’ve seen the movie The Rocky Horror Picture Show several times. I even convinced my entire squad to see a midnight showing of the movie during basic training. The 2015 RKO Productions version was the first time I saw The Rocky Horror Show live, and I saw it twice, October 28 and 29. I had a good spot for getting photos and video, which was fittingly in the back row (as per the last line of the theme song). Film theatre audience members are often dressed up, usually as characters in the show and/or wearing fancy lingerie, and this was true of this live theatre audience as well.
Rocky Horror is largely about the music, and this crew sang the music well, accompanied by a live five piece band, who were dressed for the occasion.
Science Fiction Double Feature by Richard O’Brien
was ill the day the earth stood still
- Double Feature
Guitar: Marco Yuri Bozenich, Percussion: Sean Thompson, Saxophone: Amanda Paterson,
Bass Guitar: Sebastian Britneff, Keyboard: Dakota Hoeppner
A significant amount of the plot of Rocky Horror plays on an older trope of science fiction; that aliens, regardless of how little they resemble humans, will lust after human women. This is merely implied in some cases, as in some classic SF Magazine cover art (and in Neo-opsis’ issue 4 retro style cover), or is made quite obvious in cases such as the movie Mars Needs Women. Rocky Horror parodies this idea by having the lead alien, Dr. Frank N Furter, lust after both women and men.
Along with the music was a great deal of well-choreographed and well performed dancing (more than in the movie). Jaqueline McLaughlin, playing the narrator of the show, opened the show with a beautiful version of the song “Science Fiction Double Feature,*” vocally backed by dancers Eddie Wilson (left) and Lori Grant (right) and by others not on stage. The band provided great music for this and the other songs. I especially liked Amanda Paterson’s all too brief saxophone solo after the first chorus.
(*I discuss the song “Science Fiction Double Feature” in the article “Capturing a Feeling with Music” in issue 12 of Neo-opsis. http://www.neo-opsis.ca/Twelve)
The song “Dammit Janet” is done as a duet with characters Brad Majors and Janet Weiss singing to each other as Brad proposes. RJ Peters and Sarah Anne Murphy showed they had voices well suited to the song. As with all the other songs, this show had unique dance routines by the singers and back-up dancers.
RJ Peters as Brad Majors, Sarah Anne Murphy as Janet Weiss
The song “There’s a Light” featured several dancers and much of the audience waving lights. The audience members were waving glowsticks, as opposed to using lighters, as was common in the theatre audiences in times past. I thought Sarah Anne Murphy’s strong voice was well suited to her part of this song.
“The Time Warp” is very likely the best known Rocky Horror song. The lead vocals for this song are shared, as Kelly Hudson as (Riff Raff), takes the first verse, Jana Morrison (Magenta) takes the second verse, and Candace Woodland (Columbia) does the final chorus then a tap dance routine. It was difficult for me to get a complete take on how well the dancers did for this song, as the music got pretty much the entire audience up to dance along: )
Wes Borg sang lead as Eddie on the song “Hot Patootie,” while wearing an amusing oversized Elvis wig. The live band rocked hard on the music. A beautiful riff made me wish that they’d included a hard core alto saxophone solo by Amanda Paterson.
In addition to some nice lead vocals from Kiaran McMillan for “The Sword of Damocles,” this song features some of the best back-up singing, which includes a nineteen fiftiesish line, “Sha-na-na-na that ain't no crime…”
This production included the song “Once in a While,” which doesn’t appear in the movie The Rocky Horror Picture Show. RJ Peters started off doing a solo, then other cast members came in and did some harmonious back-up.
In addition to the performers, band, and the audience, some of the rest of the crew for the show were there in fancy dress as well.
Holly Vivian operating a laser capable of emitting a
beam of pure antimatter… er, rather a spot light.
The production’s use of ingenious minimal sets included having Eddie’s death scene and the sex scenes of Frank N Furter, Brad, and Janet done in silhouette on a back lit screen, and having the car Brad and Janet drive being played by two of the dancers holding headlights. Spinning stage displays also included stands for dancers, which could be spun to reveal the controls for the “Sonic Transducer” and Frank’s resurrection equipment.
Kelly Hudson’s performance as a blue haired Riff Raff was fun. One of her performance choices illustrated how subtle differences can affect a scene. When she delivers the line, “You’re wet,” at Brad and Janet, it sounded as if it was an amused observation, which did work well. When Richard O’Brien delivers the line in the movie, he sounds both puzzled and paranoid, apparently noting that they obviously aren’t of Riff Raff’s alien race, who we can infer don’t get wet. (I’ve always assumed this line was an homage to the Twilight Zone episode “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up,” where an alien doesn’t know what “wet” means. )
Much of the story of Rocky Horror is intended to shock audience, including incest, sexual infidelity, homosexuality, cross dressing, profanity, and numerous people dancing in their underwear. Decades of changing sensibilities, and far more shocking works of fiction, lessen what shock value the story held. Regardless, the story still stands up well 42 years later for many audiences, I think in large part because the stage production teams are able to put their own personalized slant on Richard O’Brien’s brilliant music, and to present their own unique variation on the characters, dancing, sets, etc.
If you’re looking to see a unique take on Rocky Horror, or if you have some fancy underwear that you’ve been searching for an excuse to wear in public, I’d recommend keeping an eye on the RKO Productions website to watch for a show time.
Review by Karl Johanson (Ethical disclosure: Karl Johanson is a cousin of Lori Grant, one of the singer/dancers in the production.)
November 1, 2015