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BWW Review: THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW is Sexy, Feisty, and Fabulous

Kurtis Hopp as Frank-N-Furter (left) and Alex Van Handel
as Rocky Horror (right).
Photo by J Miner Photography

Something wonderfully odd is going on over at that Bartell place.

The Rocky Horror Show, in all of its wacky glory, is electrifying audiences - even though ritual participation is not included.

Richard O'Brien's musical, which spawned a cult classic film of nearly the same name, is over forty years old, but continues to shock and delight audiences even though cultural tides continue to tame the wild beast of a show.

When one of the things avoided in polite conversation is sex, that three letter word can be rather frightening. When combined with elements of horror fiction, fun show tunes and theatrics - it's no longer scary.

In this recent production, audiences are lured in with a sultry rendition of "Science Fiction/Double Feature" (performed by Katie Cass as Trixie the Usherette) as she begins the show that riffs the absurdity of B level horror flicks and monster movies with just a dash of rock and roll.

After the opening number, the ensemble quickly makes way for wholesome duo Brad Majors and Janet Weiss (played by an unassuming Michael Costanzo and the invigorating Katie Debs respectively). Brad and Janet are newly engaged and venture up to the home of Transylvanian transvestite Dr. Frank-N-Furter (a gorgeously animated Kurtis Hopp) after their car gets a flat on a rainy night. Frank-N-Furter had been hard at work on his latest creation, a perfectly crafted man, (Rocky Horror - a wide eyed Alex Van Handel) when the lovebirds appeared inside his castle.

It's at that point that Brad and Janet are stripped of their modest garments and exposed - literally - to Frank-N-Furter's world of pleasure.

Inhabited by a menacing, mime-like Riff Raff the butler (Robert Helfinstine), a slinky castle maid named Magenta (Holly Elsberry), and overseen by an eerie Jim Chiolino (whose eyebrows and facial expressions can steal a scene) as Edwin Sutherland the Narrator, there is nothing ordinary about the Frankenstein Place.

Rocky Horror, as presented in this Mercury Players and OUT!Cast Theatre collaboration, is easily as fabulous as Frank-N-Furter's red, patent leather, stiletto boots because director Steve Noll pulled out all the stops with this production.

From a series of projections showing clips from the films parodied by Rocky Horror (designed by Ron Collins &

The cast of Rocky Horror with Hopp as Frank-N-Furter (center).
Photo by J Miner Photography

Karl Reinhardt), to sexy couture a la Jenni Schwaner Ladd, provocative choreography by Lyn Pilch, and Erin McConnell's superb orchestra - this show is like something out of a movie.

And, although the pieces of the show fit so well together, there is a design element that is as "off" as the mad Frank-N-Furter.

Every line on stage is seemingly askew.

From door frames, to lines zig-zagging the floor, and even window panes, the set (an exemplary work by Erin Baal) is a testament to the off-kilter world of the Transylvanians.

With all of that said, this production of Rocky Horror is fabulously over-the-top.

Rocky Horror is also one of those shows that can be too over-the-top and cheapened under the wrong direction.

But dammit, Steve Noll did it right.

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From This Author Amanda Finn

Amanda lives in Madison, WI and joined BWW in the spring of 2014. She has relished every moment spent in a theatre since then. She (read more...)