- OnStage Contributing Critic
For a limited engagement, just in time for Halloween, Ray of Light Theatre brings a cult classic back to the Victoria Theatre, The Rocky Horror Show. This show is the perfect blend of science fiction, horror, camp, and sexuality that has created a cult following and dedicated fanbase. Ray of Light’s production stayed true to the original, while adding its own flair in terms of production, choreography, and powerhouse vocals that made this Halloween night one you wouldn’t soon forget.
The Rocky Horror Show was the brainchild of Richard O’Brien and later inspired the 1975 movie The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Taking place in a bizarre universe that both praises and parodies classic sci-fi and horror films, a young couple Brad Majors and Janet Weiss hit a flat tire on a road trip late one night. They find themselves at the humble abode of scientist Dr. Frank-n-Furter, on the eve of the unveiling of his new creation, the golden Adonis named Rocky.
While Rocky has a large cast of equally strange characters, what amazed me in this production was the talent level of the ensemble as a whole. There wasn’t a performer I saw that lacked being a triple threat. Janet Weiss (Courtney Merrell) had an incredible transformation from naïve girl to a woman oozing sexuality. Rocky (Alex Rodriguez) brought us amazing choreography, a voice fit for a rock score, and muscles that flexed to the back row. Riff Raff (Paul Hovannes) and Columbia (Melinda Campero) also had impressive vocals, and Magenta (Jocelyn Pickett) possessed the perfect mix of kook and comedy that stole the show and left the audience in tears laughing. At the forefront was Frank-n-Furter (D’Arcy Drollinger) who brought down the house with “Sweet Transvestite” and never missed a beat when picking up the audience’s callbacks. Frank’s timing, wit, and charisma turned any “virgin” of the show into a full-fledged Rocky believer.
When the curtain rose after “Science Fiction Double Feature,” a large pair of lips was unveiled, a Rocky icon, that hung over the back of the stage. Even more impressive were the actors peeking through the lips, the Narrator (Clay David) during “Time Warp” and Magenta and Columbia during “Touch-a Touch-a Touch Me,” adding another level to the stage. The set was also equipped with a large staircase that led to Frank’s dramatic entrance, and a slide that carried actors into hilarious entrances. Set Designer Angrette McCloskey made her world of Rocky as whimsical and bizarre as the source material.
The Rocky Horror Show is a cult classic, and probably has one of the most dedicated fanbases I have seen for any piece of pop culture. From shadow casts with screenings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, to the stage version, people come out in droves each year in an annual tradition of celebrating this bizarre classic. But beyond the callouts, throwing rice and toast, and costume contests, why has Rocky Horror stood the test of time? I always go back to my favorite line sung by Frank, “Don’t dream it, be it.” Rocky Horror at its core empowers audiences to let their inner freak flag fly without judgement. This show is a freedom in sexuality, gender expression, inviting people in of all ages, races, and backgrounds.
There are no rules when it comes to The Rocky Horror Show, and Ray of Light Theatre’s production embraced this along with it’s fanbase. The actors responded to the callouts and made it part of the experience, and boasted a plethora of talent that impressed both diehard fans and any “virgin” audience goers. Regardless of how many times you have experienced Rocky Horror like I have, Ray of Light Theatre’s production of The Rocky Horror Show breathed new energy into Richard O’Brien’s story, while staying true to the tradition of this science fiction double feature. I will be waiting in anticipation until Ray of Light Theatre hopeful brings this production back next Halloween season.
Jordan Nickels is a playwright and dramaturg, originally from the Midwest, with a Bachelor of Science in Theatrical Studies from Ball State University. He previously worked with Nashville Children’s Theatre, Goodspeed Opera House, Florida Studio Theatre, and The Walt Disney Company. He also served as a Blog Contributor and Managing Editor for over two years at Camp Broadway in New York City. Jordan currently resides in San Francisco, CA and works as a Development Assistant at American Conservatory Theater. Website: http://www.jordannickels.com, Twitter and Instagram: @jnickels8 Photo: Nick Otto