BWW Review: THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW: Moonbox Productions Brings It Back to Harvard Square
The Rocky Horror Show
Music, Lyrics and Book by Richard O'Brien; Producer, Sharman Altshuler; Director/Costume Design, David Lucey; Music Director, Mindy Cimini; Stage Manager, Sarah MacIntyre; Lighting Design, Sam J. Biondolillo; Choreographer, Dan Sullivan; Set/Prop Design, Cameron McEachern; Publicist, Regina Norfolk; Sound Design, David Wilson; Dramaturgy, Allison Olivia Choat
CAST (in order of appearance): Lori L'Italien, Brad Foster Reinking, Alex Jacobs, Alexander Boyle, Carly Grayson, Kristen Ivy Haynes, Peter Mill, Jared Scott Miller, Shonna Cirone; Phantoms: Jaclyn Chylinski, Max Currie, Kaedon Gray, Shalyn Grow, Shane Hennessey, Janis Hudson, Maggie Markham, Zachary McConnell
Performances through November 2 by Moonbox Productions, A Pop-Up Event in Harvard Square, 25 Brattle Street, Cambridge, MA; Box Office 866-710-8942 or www.moonbox.org
The Rocky Horror Picture Show was a staple of the Harvard Square entertainment scene from 1984 through 2012, enjoying an astounding 28-year run of Saturday midnight screenings at the late AMC Loews Theater. Just around the corner, Moonbox Productions returns to its Cambridge roots and blasts into its tenth season with The Rocky Horror Show, the live musical version at a pop-up venue at 25 Brattle Street. The venue, a once and future retail site, has a strangely appropriate ambience, an air of temporariness that is in sync with the secret of the creepy country estate where the story takes place.
When their car breaks down on a rainy night, Brad (Alexander Boyle) and Janet (Carly Grayson), a newly-engaged, innocent young couple, seek refuge and the use of a telephone (note: this is in the 70s, pre-cell phone era) at a strange house, only to find themselves sucked into the bizarre world of Dr. Frank N. Furter (Peter Mill) and his cohorts. From the moment the door is opened by the heavily made up Riff Raff (Brad Foster Reinking), and the slinky, slithering Phantoms swarm around them, Brad and Janet begin to realize that they're not in Kansas anymore, so to speak. Along with Magenta (Lori L'Italien) and Columbia (Kristen Ivy Haynes), they get swept up in the raucous energy of "The Time Warp," losing themselves in the frenzied dance.
They've barely caught their collective breath when mad scientist Frank makes a grand entrance, a sight in a wild, bluish fright wig, bustier, and shiny black kinky boots. He tells us about himself ("Sweet Transvestite") before inviting everyone to his lab to meet his creation, the perfect man, dubbed Rocky Horror (Jared Scott Miller). Bare chested and wearing little gold lamé briefs, Rocky makes an impression, especially on the virtuous Janet, but Frank is possessive ("I Can Make You A Man") and lusts after his Frankenstein-like specimen. Murder and mayhem ensue, jealousy erupts when Frank has his way with both Janet and Brad, and the plot thickens when wheelchair-bound Dr. Scott (Shonna Cirone) turns up in search of the murder victim. If it all sounds convoluted, that's because it is, but it doesn't really matter because the style of storytelling is delicious. However, if you're unfamiliar with it, or a Rocky Horror virgin, as they say, you might want to read a plot synopsis before you go.
Richard O'Brien wrote the music, lyrics, and book in 1973, blending influences from science fiction and horror movies, with a distinctly rock 'n' roll musical sensibility. Music Director Mindy Cimini and the other five musicians in the orchestra are seated above the stage and keep the beat going, while director David Lucey and choreographer Dan Sullivan make the action flow down on the floor. The Moonbox cast is loaded with triple threats who can sing, dance, and act. The Phantoms (Jaclyn Chylinski, Max Currie, Kaedon Gray, Shalyn Grow, Shane Hennessey, Janis Hudson, Maggie Markham, Zachary McConnell) have great chemistry together, moving as if they are one being, and providing a great foundation for the principals.
Boyle and Grayson capture the innocence of their characters, but have no trouble letting go of it as they morph into their new sex-crazed personas, and they both really deliver in their musical numbers. Reinking and L'Italien appear to be having a blast as the ghoulish servants, and they convey their glee with infectious bwa-ha-ha laughs. They double as the ushers at the top of the show to introduce the "Science Fiction Double Feature," and are key figures in the bizarre plot. Helping to keep the story straight, Alex Jacobs serves as the Narrator, often having the occasion to ad lib with members of the audience who choose to interject comments (some audience participation is encouraged, although not required).
Lucey wears a second hat as costume designer and does a knockout job, and both Cameron McEachern's set design and Sam J. Biondolillo's lighting design are very effective in creating the world of the play. The whole shebang is great fun and well put together, but I've saved the best for last. The number one reason to see The Rocky Horror Show is Mill's performance as Frank, a role he was clearly born to play. He commands the stage, does justice to the wigs and fashions he wears, and displays a confident maturity in both his singing and his acting. He stops short of going over the top in conveying Frank's madness, and underscores his characterization with a sweet, unexpected vulnerability that actually draws sympathy.
Beneath the glitter, heavy eyeliner, fishnets, and corsets, there are some important central themes that have given The Rocky Horror Show incredible staying power. They may have had more shock value and been more outside the box in 1973, but they still hold up today. It stands up for sexual liberation, gender fluidity, and acceptance of differences. It certainly pushes boundaries and makes no apologies for its outrageousness. The musical inspired the movie in 1975 that continues as the longest running release in film history. On stage or on screen, The Rocky Horror Show provides a space for everyone to come out and just be whoever the hell they want to be. Sounds like a Time Warp to me.