By Charlene Baldridge
Anyone here not remember the plot of Richard O’Brien’s 1973 “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”? Soon after the show’s London debut, it was adapted into what became a classic cult film musical devoted to B movies and science fiction of earlier decades.
My nearest seatmate at Cygnet Theatre’s Saturday opening of “Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show” had seen the film 10 times. Ask her. Or ask my teenage high school student just before she graduated high school in 1978. She dressed in drag at midnight every weekend and went with a girlfriend to see it. They had the show and all its moves memorized.
At Cygnet’s concession stand, one may purchase “performance enhancer props” prior to the show. Feel free to shout out, as one woman did incessantly opening night, much to the annoyance (I think) of Artistic Director Sean Murray, who wears the sequin shoes, directs and plays the transvestite scientist who’s master of the castle, Dr. Frank ‘N’ Furter. Also feel free to get on your feet and do the Time Warp at the end of the show. It will fully take you back to another era and introduce those who weren’t there to the cult experience.
It’s a rainy night and the car carrying the virginal Brad (Jacob Caltrider, who is really funny) and Janet (Amy Perkins, who looks great in her period white bra) breaks down in a rainstorm in the forest. They go to a nearby mansion to use the telephone (triple A, anyone?), and meet a bunch of people dressed in freaky duds who don’t seem interested in allowing them to use telephone. Brad and Janet feel threatened, although soon they lose their virginity (not with each other!), start to enjoy themselves, and are not quite so eager to leave.
It seems that Frank ‘N’ Furter, the chief dragster, having created the defective initial model from a guy named Eddie (played by Steve Gouveia, who also portrays a scientist who drops in at the 11th hour) has created a new boy toy for himself, name of Rocky Horror (Danny Hansen). Rocky, dressed miniscule gold lame, seems to have a mind (or at least half a one) and lusts of his own. He proceeds to pleasure others of both genders. Frank ‘N’ Furter takes his dis-pleasure out on all his minions, resulting in the (hysterically chaotic and visually amazing) destruction of the entire Rocky world. The carnage is as vast as that of “Hamlet.”
Cygnet Theatre was absolutely made for “The Rocky Horror Show,” much more so than past venues such as the Old Globe (audience was mostly dumbfounded in a wonderful way) and Diversionary, which were too small.
The show has a great rock score such as “Damn It, Janet” and “The Time Warp” and “Sweet Transvestite,” with music and lyrics by O’Brien.
Perhaps more than any other seen by this observer, Murray breaks one’s heart, especially this time, as the thwarted, defeated Frank ‘N’ Furter. Sociologically, the film engendered talks we all needed to have regarding gender identification and acceptance of those different than we. I like to think it made my daughter and her friends better people.
Others in the beautifully, lavishly produced, already extended Cygnet production (who knew there were so many sequined shoes?) are Michael Cusimano as Riff Raff, Sarah Errington as Columbia, Jim Chovick as Criminologist, and Bets Malone as Magenta. Brian Banville and Katie Sapper are backup singers, who perform aloft, moves and all, with the crackerjack band conducted by Patrick Marion. David Brannen is choreographer, Jennifer Brawn Gittings engineers wondrous costumes, Peter Herman creates wigs, and Andrew Hull, the scenic design. Chris Luessman is sound designer and Chris Rynne the lighting designer.
You may want to see it twice.
—Charlene Baldridge has been writing about the arts since 1979. Follow her blog at charlenebaldridge.com or reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.