TU’s production of the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” musical was made even more enjoyable by audience participation. Participation guides provided instances where the audience could yell at the actors, throw things or dance, and made the experience more collaborative and engaging than a typical musical.
Luckily, what I attended was only a dress rehearsal, so students can attend it this week, from October 19-21. On the 19th, the show is free for TU students; all other days it costs $6. A cash bar will be in service, serving, among other things, “Frank’s special cocktail.” Audience participation packs will be available for purchase.
For those who haven’t seen the play, I won’t spoil much of the plot; I came into the night not knowing much else besides “The Time Warp,” and enjoyed being surprised by the direction of the plot. It centers on Brad, played by Mitchell Shorey, and Janet, played by Emma Lucas, a couple who find themselves in Dr. Frank N Furter’s mansion as he is about to complete his creation, Rocky, played by Tyler McCoy As the night progresses, relationships are tested, and characters’ secrets are revealed.
While the movie is currently being shown in some theatres as Halloween approaches, the musical version does shine for its engagement and use of space. The musical began with Jacob Patterson, who plays Riff Raff, reading a list of rules and suggestions for audience members. These included prohibiting audience members from getting on the stage and calling out “asshole” whenever Brad’s name was mentioned and “slut,” in Janet’s case.
The Usherette, Kara VonWyl, who also played Magenta, then introduced the musical with “Science Fiction/Double Feature,” moving throughout the audience as she did so. This trope was repeated throughout the musical; cast would come up through the rows to sing, and during some dance routines, encourage the audience to dance. Each actor brought a unique voice to their character. VonWyl had a sultry voice I could imagine from a lounge or jazz singer, and her voice commanded the audience on her entry. Patterson, while generally a deeper voice, would be higher when the situation demanded. Michael Flake, who played Eddie and Dr. Everett Von Scott, sounded like a rock-n-roll star during his rendition of “Hot Patootie— Bless My Soul.”
TU’s production utilized the theatre well. The narrator, played by Robert Lovitt, sat above the audience, in an alcove, so that he faded out of view until his part was necessary. At the showing I attended, the set was not yet finished, but the glamor and confidence of Dr. Frank N Furter, and his assistants, Magenta, Riff Raff and Columbia, played by Sam Potrykus, helped the illusion that this was occurring inside a vast castle. The entire set is a projection surface, and there are two dance floors on either side of the stage.
The costuming of the musical should be extravagant, although the rehearsal I attended did not include full costuming. But expect six-inch heels and corsets to abound.
Machele Dill, the director of the play, has previously directed a professional production of the show at Hard Rock. The theatre department chose the play to “bring in an audience not normally tuned into our shows here on campus and to show students that theatre can be relevant and fun.”
“Rocky Horror” is unique in that “it’s both challenging and fun for designers. Same for the actors with all the audience participation and ad libs, and it challenges gender and society norms.” “Watching these young actors start to embrace these crazy characters and make them their own,” has been the best part of the play for Dill.
Students should try to get to this weekend’s performances of “Rocky Horror Picture Show.” It’s a lively, engaging tale that’s a unique story and a cultural icon. Be willing to dance and shout along with the musical, and it might be even more enjoyable.