BWW Review: Theatre Raleigh's ROCKY HORROR Spotlights Triangle Talent and Pays Homage to Cult Classic
Every so often an offbeat show comes along that's nonsensical and nutty. But not all those shows have the longevity or fandom of THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW. The costumed crowd filling The Town of Cary's Booth Amphitheater for the limited run of Theatre Raleigh's production the weekend before Halloween was a testament to that.
THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW premiered in London in 1973. After a successful run in Los Angeles in 1974, the show flopped on Broadway and closed after a mere 45 performances. Its fate as a cult-classic was sealed though when the 'The Rocky Horror Picture Show' film opened in 1975.
The Theatre Raleigh production spotlighted the breadth of North Carolina talent working and living in the Triangle, including former newsman and viral video star Penn Holderness. Holderness, who was making his professional stage debut with this production, gave a raw, energized performance as Riff Raff and held his own next to seasoned stage veterans like Jesse Gephart. Gephart, who audiences may remember from his stellar turn in Theatre Raleigh's 'Significant Other' last summer, gave another tour de force performance as everyone's favorite gender-bending, mad scientist, Frank-n-Further. Strutting and dancing in heels better than most women I know, Gephart's portrayal of Frank-n-Furter was bawdy, boisterous, and wildly entertaining to watch. Lydia Kinton, who made her Theatre Raleigh debut in this production as Eddie and Dr. Scott, superbly belted two of the production's show-stopping numbers, 'Hot Patootie' and 'Eddie's Teddy.' Rounding out the talented cast was the delightfully alluring A.C. Donohue as Magenta, the divinely talented Josh Canfield as Rocky, and quick-witted, perfectly cast David Henderson, as the Narrator.
One thing that made this production work, was the lively, high-kicking, vigorous choreography and direction of Abbey O'Brien. Even as the plot unravels during the second act, the immersive staging, set against Josh Smith's multi-level, towering steel set and Ken Wills' lighting design, was riveting.
The only downfall of this production was the venue itself. The sprawling lawn of The Town of Cary's Booth Amphitheatre lacked the intimacy of sitting in a small movie house, a definitive feeling that has been the mainstay of THE ROCKY HORROR experience for over forty years. My guess is the small attendance, which made the venue seem strangely empty Sunday night, was due in part to the weather-related cancellation of the first night's performance and the last minute addition of the Sunday show.
Still, the celebration of Triangle talent, along with the dynamic directing and some show-stopping moments, made for a jubilant postscript to Theatre Raleigh's strong summer series.
Photo by Jenifer Griffin Robertson.