BWW Reviews: Rocky Horror Revival Rocks Old Globe, San Diego
Judging by opening night at The Old Globe, San Diego, fan reaction to Richard O'Brien's The Rocky Horror Show is every bit as over-the-top silly as the attention paid to the 1975 cult film retitled The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Rocky Horror is a 1973(London)/74(LA)/75(Broadway) sendup of early sci fi, class B horror films and offers a curiously appealing view of some gay and wildly campy transgender lifestyles. Fans dress up as Rocky, Dr. Scott, Frank 'n' Furter and the Phantoms and scream obscenities and corny comments at the characters on stage. They also cover their heads with newspapers to avoid the rain, wave flashlights back and forth and move instep to "The Time Warp" in the aisles. It was 1977 midnight showings of the film that started this audience participation trend, which shows no signs of stopping.
This all new production, with Matt McGrath replacing James Barbour and with a change in directors - Oanh Nguyen left, due to artistic differences - is in greater shape than I anticipated, boasting a truly fine cast and a plethora of cool production values, special effects now under the directorial stamp of James Vasquez. I mean really , don't expect the ultra advanced, high technology of say Spiderman, but remember, we're in a time warp, man, it's the 70s, so be totally cool and hang loose!
Frank 'n' Furter could be Elvis or a perverted, transexual Jesus figure, goading us on to experience all the base pleasures that our minds have merely dreamed of. And so it is for Brad (Kelsey Kurz) and Janet (Jeanna de Waal), who only want to get married, when we first meet them. When their car breaks down on the way to visit their friend and tutor Dr. Scott, also the Narrator (David Andrew Macdonald), they stumble on a bizarre castle where Frank 'n' Furter (Matt McGrath), his female Phantoms and other strange creatures like Riff Raff (Jason Wooten) and Columbia (Nadine Isenegger) engage them in a nightmarish evening they will never forget. Frank 'n' Furter, of the Dr. Frankenstein variety, has created the muscular perfect Rocky (Sydney James Harcourt) with part of a brain he removed from motorcycle riding Eddie (Andrew Call). At first, Brad and Janet fear for their lives, but gradually give in, and like servants of Satan partake of every sin. It is Dr. Scott, uncle to Eddie, who shows up at the castle and miraculously saves the couple from a destiny of doom.
The cast is sheer heaven. McGrath - although I prefer Frank 'n' Furter broader and bolder - has the sexual spark and voice akin to a young Charles Busch in drag. Harcourt is truly delicious as Rocky. de Waal and Kurz are fabulous as Janet and Brad, singing and dancing up a storm. Isenegger, so slick and smooth, steals the show as Columbia, tapping and moving sensationally throughout. Movie star handsome Macdonald is a humorous and sexy turn-on as the Narrator and equally delightful as the brainy Dr. Scott. Rabble-rouser Andrew Call chews up the scenery in his one scene as Eddie. Wooten (Riff Raff) and Laura Shoop (Magenta) also playing the Ushers, as well as the rest of the ensemble are magnetic performing the steps of JT Horenstein's choreography and musical staging.
Musically the rock score is as raucously alive as ever, with the orchestra in plain view behind the castle set, a la JC Superstar and other pop rock operas of this genre. The whole set design by Donyale Werle is dark with eerie strings of colorful lights over the metal grating, and costumes by Emily Rebholz are scant and appropriately garish. Loved the black outfits with distinct touches of red in "Floor Show/Rose Tint My World".
It's quite a curiosity that young audiences still flock to such an eccentricity after some 40 years and can't seem to get enough. With the world turned upside down, it's perhaps another rebellious sign of the times. Adoration for pop rock and for unadulterated camp reign supreme among gays and straights, and that said, the stage Rocky Horror may easily join the film within the Cult Hall of Fame.
(rated R: adults only)
(photo credit: Henry DiRocco)