BWW Reviews: ROCKY HORROR SHOW is an Exuberant Fun-Filled Halloween Treat
Just under a week until Halloween, Bayou City Theatrics kicks off their inaugural season with Richard O'Brien's cult-favorite, THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW. While audiences at the Toyota Center waited for the original material girl to take the stage, Bayou City Theatrics channeled 80s inspired glam pop-punk fashions with their own breed of material girls (and boys) and treated their audience to a fresh rendition of the classic show.
Colton Berry and Beth Lazarou put their creative juices together to direct this campy, sexy, and fun production. Until last night, my only experiences with ROCKY HORROR were viewings of the film. Be warned, this production is wildly different, but in a totally satisfying, refreshing, and ultimately good way. Colton Berry and Beth Lazarou have heightened the sexual innuendos of the show, allowing the audience to be exposed to some that the film glosses over. This is most apparent in the first act, where the sexually dormant Brad Majors and Janet Weiss are hilariously and overtly sexualized. Yet, the way the characters are portrayed, it is clear that Brad and Janet Don't know they are being so explicitly sexual, which makes this take on the script really work. Moreover, Colton Berry and Beth Lazarou never miss a camp moment, ensuring each one is present and enjoyable. Under their direction, the audience easily gets lost in the whimsy and hilarity of the barely there plot and the delightfully rollicking musical numbers that leave us dancing in our seats.
As Dr. Frank'n'Furter, Tye Blue simply steals the show, which is what the audience wants him to do. From his entrance in "Sweet Transvestite" to his captivating, beautiful performance of "I'm Going Home," Tye Blue creates a Frank'n'Furter that is fully realized, humorous, and even sympathetic. His portrayal shows off seasoned acting chops and brilliant talent, bringing heart, soul, and surprising depth to the production and character. It would be easy to simply do a send up of Tim Curry's iconic performance, but Tye Blue makes the character his own with his splendid take on the role. Mix in his charming and delightful singing voice, and he is just remarkable in the role. With no tricks to his treat, the audience is comfortably placed in his back pocket and truly loves every moment he is on stage. Without question, Tye Blue earns and deserves his standing ovation from the audience.
Beth Lazarou's Janet Weiss is an 80s valley girl through and through, including a running Tic-Tac gag that never got tired in the performance ("One Calorie!"). Her ditzy, nasal talking voice is a perfect counter to her powerful belt-filled singing voice, creating a mesmerizing dynamic. The audience delights in Beth Lazarou's performance.
Brad Majors, as played by Bobby Haworth, is square, stilted, and comical. While not really a singer, he makes his performances in the songs work and the audience is not bothered by his missed pitches. Instead, his vocals add to the campy nature of the show and leave the audience grinning. Bobby Haworth wins the audience over with his excellent sense for comedic timing, eliciting numerous laughs throughout the show.
Wendy Taylor's Riff Raff is a magnanimous show stealer. Her strong, bright, and powerful vocals cause the audience to cheer for her time and time again. She never misses an opportunity to sell a performance to the back row, which drives the audience wild with enthusiastic support. Another excellent facet to her performance is her riotous socially inappropriate behaviors, especially in the first act. Her Riff Raff is definitely odd and off-putting, but not in a way that the audience is accustomed to seeing.
As Magenta, Scott Lupton looks and acts fantastic. His vocals, due to some sound mixing issues, get lost or completely covered up. He is wonderfully quirky in his portrayal of the character.
Columbia, portrayed by Arianna Bermudez, is fun. However, her shining moments come late in the second act when she gets to let loose and berate Frank'n'Furter for his diabolical betrayals. She leaves the audience rolling in the aisles with her medley of Latin pop-culture references. Sadly, appearing not to be miked, there are times where her vocals are lost in the bigger group numbers.
Colton Berry's Eddie has a fantastic 80s punk look that reads lesbian, but his vocals are not as Eddie Veder or Meatloaf as the audience would like. His "Hot Patootie" is raucous and fun, but doesn't have the rocking oomph that the audience is used to or expects from the tune. Thus, Colton Berry's turn as Dr. Evrett Scott is his more enjoyable and memorable performance of the evening, especially during the climatic floorshow.
Rocky, played by Douglas Dorsten, is not the muscular man the lyrics suggest and his vocals sounded raw last night. Where Douglas Dorsten wins the audience over is in his facial expressions, which are awesome and hilarious. He deftly portrays Rocky's naivety and inability to control his libido.
Ernie Manouse is fun as The Narrator, and received some great callback barbs from the audience I saw the show with.
William Martin's choreography is a wonderful pastiche of funky kitsch that really works well for the performance. It has a lot of heart and humor worked into it, making it fantastically memorable and eye catching. It gets playfully kinkier in the second act, which encourages many whoops and cheers from the audience. I have to laud William Martin for not mimicking the film's iconic "Time Warp" choreography, yet his take doesn't have that same iconographic feel to it. His "Time Warp" is enthusiastic and fun, but I felt that it did fall a little flat.
Jane Volke's musical direction and assembled band are superb. The band sounds marvelous and allows the audience to hear Richard O'Brien's score in a way that showcases some of its beauty and intricacies in ways that the film does not. Likewise, they are perfectly mixed and blended, never coming across as too loud but maintain an exuberant energy for the whole performance.
The Gay Men's Chorus of Houston is a welcome addition to the show, providing lush choral sounds and filling out numbers like "Over at the Frankenstein Place." They also gleefully lead the audience through the callbacks, ensuring that every performance will have the full ROCKY HORROR experience.
Costuming, Makeup, and Hair Designs by Jacob Chaput are phenomenal. Jacob Chaput adroitly captures the 80s pop-punk style, giving the audience large neon accessories and jewelry, crimped hair, bedazzled costume pieces, and more. Every element is perfectly appropriate in the design, reminiscent of such classic 80s fare as Jem and the Holograms-well, if Jem and her friends were gender benders.
The properties manager of the show isn't listed in the program, but their work is worthy of mentioning. After all, they collected and assembled a great number of 80s memorabilia for use in the show. From the Jumping Balls to the Rubic's Cube, the Etch-A-Sketch to the Easy Bake Oven, there is a barrage of hysterically utilized prop pieces that round out the 80s flashback. This minute detail upped the ante for the camp and made for some spectacular and inspired sight gags.
Tyler Frazier's lighting design was simplistic and reminiscent of concert lighting, which was an amusing touch for this production. At Vue, Bayou City Theatrics doesn't have enough space for a super detailed and highly technical light grid, and Tyler Frazier did a good job utilizing what was available for the performance.
Because Vue is such a limiting venue, I feel certain the sound equipment is located where a DJ in the nightclub would need it to be. Unfortunately, this put Steve Millner and Alpha & Omega Sound's sound booth in an upstage corner, which creates some problems in the sound design. The people running the board cannot hear the sound the way the audience can, which presented a large drawback in the performance I attended. In addition to some questionable mixing in the show, there was quite a bit of microphone scratching happening as well. This is an issue that I am certain will be worked out by tonight. The cast and crew performed twice last night, and I'm certain they were aware of the microphone problems as they were being tested during intermission.
Richard O'Brien's ROCKY HORROR SHOW, produced by Bayou City Theatrics, is a superbly fun night out at the theatre. It is being presented in a night club, which feels like an ideal setting for the show. The assembled cast is lively and rambunctious. They have a contagious zealous energy that truly sells the show, making this ROCKY HORROR SHOW a toe-tapping Halloween treat of a great time.
ROCKY HORROR SHOW runs at Vue Nightclub on Waugh Drive through October 31, 2012. Tickets are $25 for General Admission seating. VIP seats are still available for certain performances. To reserve a VIP seat contact BCT@BayouCityTheatrics.com. For more information and tickets please visit http://www.bayoucitytheatrics.com/.
Photos courtesy of Bayou City Theatrics.
Tye Blue as Dr. Frank'n'Furter.
Wendy Taylor as Riff Raff & Scott Lupton as Magenta.
Colton Berry as Eddie & Arianna Bermudez as Columbia.
Ernie Manouse as The Narrator.