BWW Reviews: THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW is a Camptastic Treat
The term "reality star" is, by and large, an oxymoron. While I do love some reality programming (if my DVR doesn't tape Project Runway, I throw a massive hissy fit), I cringe when I hear of producers casting reality stars in musicals simply to put butts in seats. I believe that resorting to casting celebrities who have no theater training or experience cheapens the material and is a slap in the face to legitimate stage performers. And besides, does anyone care to see Wendy Wiliams in Chicago? But still, the trend of stunt casting prevails, and very rarely, what first looks like a stunt is in fact ingenious casting. Case in point: Woodlawn Theatre's current production of The Rocky Horror Show, starring Alaska Thunderf**k, Michelle Visage, and Willam from RuPaul's Drag Race.
Woodlawn's herstory with Drag Race began with their crowd-pleasing 2012 production of The Rocky Horror Show which starred Drag Race winner Sharron Needles. The production was so successful, Woodlawn decided to do the time warp again by revamping and restaging the show this season. Needless to say, the show has been greatly antici...pated since it was announced earlier this year. If, like me, you missed last year's production, you owe it to yourself to see it this year. Rocky Horror is a silly, raunchy, sexy, fun-filled evening featuring three reality TV personalities who deserve to be considered stars.
While this may be the second time Woodlawn's staged the campy rock musical about a transvestite doctor, the look and feel is dramatically different from the futuristic steampunk themed version that was presented last year. Whether you saw the 2012 production or you're coming to it fresh, odds are you'll be pleased and excited by Greg Hinojosa's quick-paced staging and S&M themed costumes. The show features some whimsical and challenging choreography, courtesy of Courtnie Mercer. Some of the overtly sexual steps are perfectly naughty, and the ensemble is hands down the hardest working cast on the Woodlawn stage since their production of In the Heights earlier this season. The set, which I first reviewed for Woodlawn's production of Young Frankenstein which runs in rep with Rocky Horror, is massive and impressive, and the lighting by Chris Muenchow is edgy and rock concert inspired.
Justin Andrew Honard (aka Alaska Thunderf**k), is sensational as Dr. Frank N. Furter. His take on the role is constantly sexy, calculating, and threatening, and he never once copies the iconic Tim Curry performance. As Magenta, Michelle Visage shows off her strong alto voice and her overabundant curves. Both Honard and Visage put just enough of their own personas into their roles without weakening or undermining their characters, and it's obvious that they're both having just as much, if not more, fun than the audience. Unfortunately, their Drag Race counterpart, Willam Belli, doesn't fare quite as well as Riff Raff. Belli is an outstanding singer and a gifted dancer as well, but his character sometimes falls flat and could use a bit more of that trademark Willam sass (yes, that's a read, but I love you, girl).
The Drag Race trio certainly sets the bar high for the rest of the cast, and thankfully the other performers more than rise to the occasion. Woodlawn regular Sean Hagdorn turns the character of Brad into a caricatured leading man, and his pure, golden voice is thrilling as always. Melissa Zarb-Cousin also goes over the top with the role of Janet. She's so wholesome, pure, and peppy, the character sometimes feels like a human Minnie Mouse. As the Narrator, James Apollo Bradley delights the audience by putting his Shakesperian-trained voice and Bowflex-trained body to good use, and Dave Cortez is hysterical as Dr. Scott, especially when ad-libbing responses to audience heckling.
Given the unreal levels of talent involved, it's no surprise that Woodlawn's The Rocky Horror Show is as ridiculously entertaining as it is. Once again, this is a production that is sure to please any fan of Rocky Horror. Even those who saw last year's production will appreciate the fresh, new take on the material, and Drag Race fans will adore Alaska, Michelle, and Willam. These ladies better werk, and werk they do.
Running time: 2 hours, including one 15 minute intermission.
NOTE: Recommended for mature audiences only.
THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW plays The Woodlawn Theatre now thru Saturday, November 2nd. Performances are Thursdays at 8pm and Fridays and Saturdays at 11pm. Tickets are $35-$75. For tickets and information, please visit www.woodlawntheatre.org