In 2015, The Rocky Horror Picture Show will celebrate its 40th birthday, a milestone already celebrated by the stage play that inspired it—Richard O’Brien’s 1973 game-changer The Rocky Horror Show.
How interesting that a show originally met with shock, disgust and accusations of moral depravity should today be embraced with warm and fuzzy affection and sighs of wistful nostalgia.
Of course, those who feel that way already know how raunchy a play it is—especially with the addition of smutty “call backs” shouted out tauntingly throughout the play by the audience.
In the high-energy production now playing at 6th Street Playhouse, which had a hit with the musical last year and has wisely brought it back to the Studio, those call backs (delivered from a perch at the rear of the theater by stage manager Sarah Passemar and spotlight operator Emily Stryker) are a major part of the show, giving the whole enterprise some of its biggest laughs.
Returning from last year’s production are Rob Broadhurst as the sexually omnivorous, cross-dressing alien Dr. Frank N. Furter and Julianne Bradbury as the initially virginal Janet Weiss (call back: “Slut!”). Also back is director Craig Miller, whose glee at staging this kind of material is evident in every detail.
Everyone else in the cast has been replaced (a number of them transplanted to 6th Street’s recently ended Addams Family musical), and the changes actually make the show even better this time. As Janet’s uptight fiancé Brad Majors (call back: “Asshole!”), Mark Bradbury brings a manic energy that perfectly fits the show’s satirical vibe.
When Brad and Janet find themselves stranded in the rain, they take refuge at the castle where the doctor conducts experiments with his eerie servants Riff Raff (a spot-on Zack Howard) and Magenta (Abbey Lee, who begins the show with some outrageous acrobatics on a spinning hoop). Fine work is also brought by Tim Hayes as the story’s criminologist narrator, Rose Roberts as Frank’s giddy groupie Columbia, Zac Schuman in the dual roles of brain donor Eddie and his science-teacher uncle Dr. Scott, and Jared Newman as Rocky, the laboratory-created boy toy of Frank N. Furter.
Let’s face it. It’s not exactly a brilliant script, and the third act is a moody buzz-kill, but the songs rock throughout, and it really is fun to sit back, do a little time warp, and remember a time in the distant 1970s when being a little “bad” felt really, really good.
Rating (out of 5): ★★★★