BWW Reviews: Actor's Express' ROCKY HORROR SHOW is a Titillating Evening of Talent and Depravity
I am quite aware that this will sound sacrilegious to many who read this review, but until I saw Actor's Express' titillating production of THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW, I had never seen the musical before. I have a vague recollection of watching the film version on VH1's "Movies That Rock" at some point in the mid-90's, but other than seeing Susan Sarandon in her underwear, it didn't do much to interest me. So, as I made my way to the King Plow Arts Center, I expected to be impressed by the tremendous young talents in the cast, but what I didn't expect was to be transported to another world of naughty, musical theatre ecstasy.
If you aren't sure what to expect from the show, the opening number "Science Fiction Double Feature," sung by the always breathtaking Suzi Bass Award-winner Diany Rodriguez, tells you everything you need to know. In a surprise to absolutely no one that has been paying attention for the past four decades, the show is 100% cheese, but it is one fabulous hunk of cheese. Directed by Actor's Express' Artistic Director Freddie Ashley, the show moves forward with just enough speed that you barely even notice the massive plot holes in this sexy piece of Swiss.
I won't spoil the plot (because there is very little to spoil), but a young, innocent, recently-engaged couple have car trouble on a dark, stormy night and take refuge in a castle occupied by a group of polyamorous, pansexual creatures who enjoy nothing more than sexually taunting the young couple. In true classic Science Fiction fashion, the story is narrated by an underused, but appropriately Vincent Price-voiced Kevin Harry.
The other-worldly, two-time Suzi-winner Craig Waldrip leads the group of sexual deviants as Dr. Frank 'N' Furter, and manages to sound reminiscent of an even creepier-than-normal Mick Jagger (in all the best ways). His voice, his presence, and his hair command your attention from the moment he steps on stage. In the shows I've seen him in before, Waldrip has been very good, but this was a truly impressive performance.
Though this is a show that thrives on the talent, energy, and sexuality of its entire incredible ensemble, it is clear that the cast is led by a group that would (and could) be stars in any theatre community in the country. Waldrip is accompanied in this mix by Rodriguez, Jeremiah Parker-Hobbs (Riff Raff), and Randi Garza (Janet). The latter two recently appeared together, in far different circumstance, in Stage Door Players' GODSPELL (check out BWW Atlanta's review here). With this role, Parker-Hobbs continues to show why he is quickly becoming (if he's not already there) one of Atlanta's most reliable male triple-threats. His Riff Raff and Rodriquez's Magenta make for a delightfully deviant pair.
Though Janet is not the most well-liked character (just pay attention to the audience participation), Garza again shines. She manages the transition from virginal debutante to sex-crazed diva magically, and likewise her voice transitions from the soft tones of an ingénue to the brass belts of a diva. She is going to be something special.
Rounding out the principles are a very enjoyable Ashley Prince as Columbia; Benjamin Davis, who is appropriately nerdy as Brad, but is easily overshadowed by his powerhouse co-stars; Brian Hatch as Rocky, which is a thankless (and nearly costumeless) part; and Jill Hames as Eddie and Dr. Scott. I know these parts were played by a woman in the most recent Broadway revival, but, unfortunately, Hames doesn't have the charisma, or sexual potency, to pull these gender-bending roles.
About 10-15 minutes before the show starts, the castle's Phantoms (Chase Alford, Jason-Jamal Ligon, Stephanie Lloyd, Megan Poole, Julissa Sabino, and Jordan-William Snead) enter the theatre and flirt with and tease the audience. If you, like me, have a tendency to blush easily, I would not recommend sitting in the front row or on the aisle... not that that alone will completely dissuade these sexually frustrated (but incredibly fun) Phantoms from preying on you.
In a really nice touch, AE provides a cheat sheet for the ROCKY HORROR "virgins" to guide them through the show's audience participation component. Fortunately for those like me, who become nervous at the prospect of "being a part of the show," the participation is encouraged, but not required.
My only complaint about the production is that some of the mics, especially on the phenomenally voiced-Rodriguez, sounded thin and hollow, making it difficult to understand some of the unfamiliar lyrics.
The choreography by Ricardo Aponte is fantastically fun, especially Prince's surprising tap steps. Phillip Male designed the effective multi-level set, and Music Director Seth Davis has the entire cast in fine voice.
For those of you who are more accustomed to seeing ROCKY HORROR in a movie theatre, Actor's Express does want to remind you that water guns and outside food items/props are not allowed, so keep your Super Soakers and rice at home. And, it should go without saying, but THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW contains mature content, so parents, and those faint of heart, be advised.
If you are looking for a night of depraved debauchery, there is no better place to find it than at Actor's Express' THE ROCKY SHOW. Get your tickets quickly by visiting their website or calling (404) 875-1606. The show is running now through August 9th, 2014, but don't hesitate, there are a lot of freaks in Atlanta, so this one just might sell out fast!
1) Ligon, Davis, Prince, Parker Hobbs, Rodriguez, Garza, Sabino | BreeAnne Clowdus
2) Waldrip, L-R, front, Lloyd, Sabino; back, Snead, Alford | BreeAnne Clowdus
3) Prince, Phantoms, Rodriguez | BreeAnne Clowdus.
4) Ligon, Sabino, Rodriguez, Lloyd, Snead, Prince | BreeAnne Clowdus