Review: "Rocky Horror Live!" : The Good, The Bad & the Good

Review: "Rocky Horror Live!" : The Good, The Bad & the Good

Tis the season of TV musical specials and to follow up to their better than mediocre Grease Live! by taking on the cult classic, The Rocky Horror Picture Show. It was an extreme risk given the fervent fan-base. So how did this one stack up? We decided to attack it all angles and had three of our critics(Noah Golden, Brittany Strelluf and Erin Karll) view it can give their opinion.

Needless to say the reaction was mixed. Here's our rundown. 

Brittany:  Rocky Horror is truly a cult classic. It has been performed in countless theatres across the nation. I have to praise The Fox network and the production team for broadcasting these incredible Broadway shows straight into out living rooms.  Bringing the stage to  the small screen is a great way to bring new fans into the theatrical world.

Noah: Perhaps this is sacrilege, but I was never a big “Rocky Horror” fan. By the time I saw the movie in my mid-to-late teens, I found it surprisingly bland and passé. Yes, Tim Curry as a performer is iconic but by the late 2000s a man in fishnets is hardly the pearl-clutching scandal it was in 1975. I found the songs (with a few exceptions) pretty forgettable and the plot nonsensical to the point of distracting. Given my lackluster take on the source material, I was interested to see how the Fox remake would pan out. Would it help me understand what all the “Rocky Horror” hoopla was all about?

Erin: I have to say that I am a huge fan of the recent upswing in televised musical productions. From Sound of Music, Peter Pan, The Wiz, Grease, and the upcoming Hairspray. Filming these productions offers more access to those who normally could not see a stage production, either for geographical reasons, or due to disabilities. These productions can have captions and visual descriptions added for the deaf and blind audience members. They also allow audience members to view from a comfortable location, as maybe needed for those who use wheelchairs or may be on the autism spectrum. These productions allow for a deeper connection with a wider audience. 

On the Performances

Brittany: The gorgeous Laverne Cox was glorious as the iconic Dr. Frank N Furter.  Even though she had some tall heels to fill, this diva took this role and made it her very own creation. A standout performance for me was the beautiful Victoria Justice as Janet Weiss. Justice had me rooting for her from the moment she spoke. Known for her roles on shows like Zoey 101, Victorious, and Eye Candy, Justice's charisma shone brilliantly throughout the show.

Noah: A few of the actors really rose to the occasion. Adam Lambert brought a goofy machismo to Eddie (whose unfortunate exit happened way too quickly) and Broadway darling Annaleigh Ashford nearly stole the show as his spirited groupie ex. It was also fun to see stage legend Ben Vereen let loose as Dr. Scott, even donning a pair of fishnets and heels, at age 70. I also applaud Laverne Cox for giving the iconic role of Frank-N-Furter her all. She is clearly a tremendous actress (even if the mid-Atlantic accent was a head scratcher) and a serviceable singer, but with a few exceptions (the surprisingly moving “Going Home,” for instance) she was neither naughty nor creepy enough. Frank should be both seductive and scary, arousing and unpredictable. Cox’s version was less of an unhinged, sex-craved maniac and closer to a bitchy supermodel.

Erin: Victoria Justice (Janet) and Starz Nair (Rocky) showed a lot of chemistry during ‘Touch-a Touch-a Touch Me’. Christina Milian (Magenta) and Annaleigh Ashford (Columbia) filled out the story well and Ashford really sparkled in the final confrontation with “Frank”. Ryan McCartan (Brad) was funny and had a unique take on the character. Reeve Carney (Riff Raff) was a strong character. I enjoyed Adam Lambert’s Eddie, but I never doubted he had the voice to rock. I must also say it was a treat to see Tim Curry as the Criminologist.

Costumes & Design

Brittany: The costumes were the fantastic work of 6 time Tony Award Winner William Ivey Long.  Long is a legend of costume design and is known for his beautiful work on Broadway shows like The Producers, Nine, Cinderella, and Hairspray.  His attention to detail is so astounding, I feel like I could look every piece over and over and still find something new and special each time I look. Long's impeccable designs combined with the awesome hair and makeup to become a perfect blend of the original campy 70's version and the modern feel of 2016 to create a truly special look.

Erin: Over all I was impressed with the look of this production. The costumes, make up, and set all paid a great respect to the original without coping. The Transylvanian chorus looked glamorous and Laverne Cox’s Frank N Furter outfits were stunning.

Final Thoughts: 

Brittany: The very best thing about "THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW Let's Do The Time Warp Again", is the simple five word message that has lasted through the decades, and will continue to ring true for audiences for years to come: Don't dream it. Be it. 

Noah: Unfortunately, this TV reboot was a misfire on almost every level.  Kenny Ortega not just failed to elevate the source material but made a couple of poor directorial choices that made it feel even more dated and pointless. The biggest problem with this “Rocky Horror.” It felt safe and sanitized. The sets and costumes were too bright and tidy, the characters not given enough personality. Never has the sight of a half-naked woman rolling around in a bed felt so bland. While casting Cox, a transgender actress, is an interesting move, here it made little dramatic sense. If Frank is to be perceived and played as a woman (a stylish woman in haute couture garb, to be exact) with no contextual mention to the character’s gender fluidity beyond using the word “transvestite,” it robs the show and character of what little teeth it still had. If there was no real danger to Frank and no perverted sexuality to the Transylvanians (who looked more like Hot Topic employees than deviant aliens) then what’s the point?

It becomes a silly and occasionally entertaining homage to a silly and occasionally entertaining 1975 film which was, in turn, an homage to an entire genre of silly and occasionally entertaining black-and-white horror movies. You could call it that. I just call it a waste of time and talent.

Erin: Overall the Fox production “The Rocky Horror Picture Show:  Let’s Do the Time Warp Again” is a wonderful cover of a cult classic. The look is a perfect fit to the story. The music is modernized and different from what audience familiar with the story would be expecting to hear. I enjoyed it and plan to watch it again. So jump to the left and step to the right, Rocky is here to stay.  

 The Rocky Horror Show is available for licensing through Samuel French. For inquiries about licensing a live professional or amateur stage production, contact www.SamuelFrench.com/contact-us."

Review: 'Dreamgirls' by Landmark Community Theatre

Review: 'Dreamgirls' by Landmark Community Theatre

Off Broadway Review: ‘Love, Love, Love’, is that truly all you need?

Off Broadway Review: ‘Love, Love, Love’, is that truly all you need?