Review: Thoroughly Entertaining THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW Captivates Audiences at the Maverick Theater
At the Maverick Theater performance I attended of their long-running and incredibly popular THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW, someone told me the original version of the play was written by Richard O'Brien as his senior thesis at NYU, which resulted in him failing and being thrown out. If that is true, perhaps it led to his return to London where as an out-of-work actor in the early 1970s, O'Brien re-wrote his play to keep himself busy on winter evenings. At least that is part of the show's history shared on Wikipedia. Whichever version is correct, what everyone can agree upon is the original play and its subsequent film version "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" have achieved the kind of cult status which guarantees any production or screening will sell out once fans are aware of it.
Since his youth, O'Brien admits his passion for science fiction and B horror movies led him to combine elements of the unintentional humor, portentous dialogue of schlock-horror, Steve Reeves muscle films, and fifties rock and roll set against the backdrop of the glam era that had manifested itself in British popular culture in the early 1970s, thanks in big part to David Bowie's gender-bending persona in "Space Oddity" first released as a 7-inch single in July 1969. In fact, a major theme running throughout THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW musical is transvestism which, according to O'Brien, was not originally meant to be as prominent as it ended up being after its original London production starring the cross-dressing, incredibly sexy Tim Curry as Frank-n-Furter.
Brilliantly continuing in that tradition since the Maverick Theater's first production in 2007 is Dennis Tong, who absolutely inhabits the iconic role with every ounce of his being. From the moment he appears atop the bar in the theater and throws back his cape to reveal Frank-n-Furter's scantily dressed sexy self, you know this is going to be a night of theater you will never forget. In fact, the entire cast creates each and every character purely from their hearts, with producer/director Brian Newell adding in loving tributes to not only the play and movie, but other comic bits such as staging an attack with a wire hanger, the clicking of red shoes to go home, and notably using the Japanese kabuki tradition of Kuroko (in which supporting actors or stage hands dressed entirely in black portray background objects) as the car which breaks down due to a flat tire, causing Brad and Janet to enter their other worldly adventure.
But first, after the car breaks down in the rain, the newly-engaged yet incredibly innocent duo sing "There's a Light" while walking around through the audience while an actor in black lovingly sprays them and audience members with a water bottle to create the reality of rain falling. It was certainly refreshing, but be advised in the Maverick Theater's production, audience members are not allowed to throw props due to safety concerns during the interactive show. So leave the rice and toast at home!
Running through the story is the sexual confusion of these two middle American kids, perfectly cast with Paul Zelhart as Brad Majors and Mackenzie Greiner as Janet Weiss, who, thanks to costume designer Celestina Hudson, reveals her traditional bullet-bra and garter belt as the triple-threat lab assistants Riff-Raff (Stephen Hulsey), Magenta (Kalinda Gray), and Columbia (Audrey Curd) undress them after promising to dry their wet clothes (not really, of course!). They are at first dumb-founded when welcomed to the lab by the energic ensemble's "Time Warp." Yes, I found myself singing along!
But when confronted by the decadent morality of the mad "doctor" Frank 'N' Furter, a transvestite from the planet Transsexual in the galaxy of Transylvania, the pair are in for a night of sexual adventures neither could have imagined. For as you no doubt already know, both Brad and Janet will soon lose their innocence to this other-worldly impersonator and his incredibly well-built, soon-to-be lover Rocky, tall and handsome rock musician Chris Marshall, a welcome and eye-catching addition who I hope wl continue in the Maverick's ongoing ROCKY productions.
Eddie the Biker (who rocks the house) and wheelchair-bound Dr. Scott, who shows up looking for Brad and Janet, are both portrayed enthusiastically by Enrique Munoz Jr. Closest to me at the bar during the entire show was the red smoking jacket clad Hugh Hefner-like Narrator, portrayed by Rob Downs, who often lit an incredibly lovely smelling tobacco in his pipe. Adding in more humor, he delivered each of his description monologues while imbibing a different bar drink in an appropriately different glass! And of course, Downs was ready for the shouted-out interruptions from audience members familiar with the pauses in which they can call out questions then answered with his next comment.
I encourage all fans, and even those who may somehow not be familiar with this highly entertaining cult play or movie, to get your tickets soon as performances sell out. Richard O'Brien's THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW continues at the Maverick Theater through August 11, 2018, with this sinfully twisted salute to horror, sci-fi, B-movies and rock music presented in the style of the original Roxy stage production in Hollywood that served as the inspiration for the movie.
Performances on Fri/Sat at 8pm, Sun at 6pm through August 11, 2018 at the Maverick Theater, 110 E. Walnut Ave, Fullerton, CA 92832. Tickets are $30, $15 for students with current ID. This production is not intended from anyone under the age of 17. Purchase tickets by calling the box office at (714) 526-7070, leaving a message with your name, phone number, the date you want to see the show, and the number of people in your party. You will receive a call back to confirm your reservation. The group encourages online ticketing which is instant, safe and easy to use at https://mavericktheater.tix.com/Schedule.aspx?OrgNum=491
Photos courtesy of The Maverick Theater