BWW Reviews: ROCKY HORROR SHOW Raises the Roof at Studio Theatre
Even before the first chords are played by the kick-ass band, the audience gets a glimpse of what is in store. A bevy of sexy ladies and gentlemen roam through the aisles, seeking virgins. Sporting peek-a-boo leather chaps and bustiers, the ensemble engages the visitors, setting the stage for the libidinous delights about to unfold. Meanwhile, scenes from one of the granddaddy of all science fiction films, "Frankenstein" (1931) are projected onto the set.
It should come as no surprise this convergence of sex and sci fi is Richard O'Brien's THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW. Now virgins and fans alike can hop off of their slabs to see what's in the lab at the Studio Theatre for their latest 2ndStage production.
A titillating, roof-raising stage show, Studio's production of THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW is electrifying, as lead by Mitchell Jarvis (Broadway's ROCK OF AGES) as Dr. Frank N. Furter. Studio Theatre's 2ndStage productions aim to be daring and audacious and ROCKY HORROR hits a bulls-eye.
If your only exposure to O'Brien's homage to black and white creature features and pleasures of the flesh is the 1974 film version, "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," I cannot judge whether you will embrace this production or not. I think if you keep an open mind -one of the major themes of the show - you can easily succumb to the seductive power of the musical.
Director Keith Alan Baker and co-director Alan Paul honor the memories of the cult-worshipped film while making it clear this show is definitely not a movie made-over. As the audience settles in to their seats, a clever nod to the opening moments of the movie invites one and all to embrace the experience about to come. The curtain speech is delivered by the silvery lips of Frank N. Furter, the gender-bending doctor from Transsexual, Transylvania.
And how is the good (bad) doctor? Mitchell Jarvis infuses Frank N. Furter with a serpent's beside manner and the sex appeal of a rock star. As Frank, Jarvis is unpredictable, seductive, and can chill the blood with his powerhouse voice in songs like "Sweet Transvestite" and "I Can Make You a Man." Like a feral jungle cat, he can switch from a purr to a roar in a flash. Reason enough to book your ticket for the show, but why stop there?
Surrounding Jarvis, Frank's creepy minions Riff Raff, Magenta and Columbia are equal partners in crime. Matthew McGee's secretive Riff Raff and Kayla Dixon's sultry Magenta serve their master well. Matthew DeLorenzo's portrayal of the delicate Columbia deserves an extra nod for offering a full-blown character, not a gimmicky drag turn. His Columbia believably moves from willing participant in the licentious experiments to a wounded and heart-broken butterfly when her lover Eddie - Matthew G. Myers - is murdered by Frank.
As Brad and Janet, Tim Rogan and Jessica Thorne are picture perfect as the all-American couple who have the misfortune of stepping into Frank's world on a dark and stormy night. As they become the focus of the doctor's perverted experiments in human sexuality, Rogan and Thorne convincingly show the unraveling of Brad and Janet's tenuous inhibitions.
Frank's other experiment, Rocky himself, comes to life via Will Hayes. In the Charles Atlas mold of sculpted male specimens, Hayes brings out Rocky's delicious innocence even as he is being man-handled by his incestuous creator.
Pulling double duty as the omniscient narrator and the wheelchair bound Dr. Everett Scott is one of Washington's most recognizable actresses, Sarah Marshall. Known for turns in the classics as well as contemporary works throughout DC theatre, here Marshall enters into the musical mayhem of ROCKY HORROR with her characteristic skill. Her interjections as the narrator hearken back to Rod Serling's deadpan delivery from "The Twilight Zone."
With no weak links in the cast, the co-directing team of Baker and Paul also assembled a crackerjack team behind the scenes for their rocking ROCKY. George Fulginiti-Shakar's band provides the power behind O'Brien's score, with an assist from the skillful sound design of Jeffrey Dorfman. The Frankenstein's lab setting - complete with sex toy decorations - is from the mind of set designer Giorgio Tsappas. Adding to the science fiction fun, and serving as much more than set dressing, are the memorable projections by Erik Trester. Collin Ranney's costume designs embrace the macabre and exhibitionistic.
Baker and Paul also get a huge assist from Michael Bobbitt's salaciously tinged choreography for the cast and ensemble; even the infamous "Time Warp" is freshened up for 2013. When the sinewy and sensuous ensemble members return to the aisles for the dance, lucky audience members get to join in on the moves.
Joining in is Dr. Frank N. Furter's message, after all, as he sings "Don't Dream It - Be It." And even if you are not ready to find an alien-lead orgy, you can live vicariously through the scantily clad cast in the Metheny Theatre. THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW is a perfect match for the raw energy and risk-taking associated with the Studio 2ndStage.
Through August 4, 2013 - Metheny Theatre, The Studio Theatre - 1501 14th Street NW WDC 20005