Review: THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW, (at the Stratford Festival)

by Lynn on June 20, 2018

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Avon Theatre, Stratford Festival, Stratford, Ont.

Book, music and lyrics by Richard O’Brien

Directed and choreographed by Donna Feore

Music director, Laura Burton

Set by Michael Gianfrancesco

Costumes by Dana Osborne

Lighting by Michael Walton

Projections by Jamie Nesbitt

Sound by Peter Boyle

Cast: Eric Abel

Gabriel Antonacci

Dan Chameroy

Colton Curtis

Bonnie Jordan

Bethany Kovarik

George Krissa

Robert Markus

Erica Peck

Trevor Patt

Sayer Roberts

Steve Ross

Jennifer Ryder-Shaw

Jason Sermonia

Kimberly-Ann Truong

The Rocky Horror Show is breathlessly lively with rousing choreography, staged almost like a rock concert, with flashing lights at every turn. The performances are cheeky and impish, led by the cheekiest, most impish Dan Chameroy.

The Story. This is Richard O’Brien’s 1973 cult musical that is an homage to science fiction and B horror movies, and is about sex, transvestitisms and letting go of your inhibitions.

A young, conservative couple, Brad and Janet, are driving home from a wedding when their car breaks down in a dark and forbidding wood. But there is a spooky castle over there and surely the people living there will let them use the phone to call for help. They are welcomed into the castle by a creepy butler called Riff Raff and his tarty looking sister Magenta. They are then ushered into a room to meet Dr. Frank N Furter, a fish-net legged, leather bustier wearing man in thigh high heeled boots.  He lives for pleasure to the extent that he has created Rocky Horror, a buff, muscular, tanned man to be his plaything. Frank N Furter is an equal opportunity lover who loves people of both genders and leaves them when someone new comes along.

The Performance. Michael Gianfrancesco’s set looks almost like a cartoon with a cut out car in which Brad and Janet drive; the background is painted as if it is in a cartoon and the spooky painting of the castle is both foreboding and appropriately tacky.

This being The Rocky Horror Show there is an understanding that there will be heckling.

We were told to be lively and participate but we could not bring toast to throw or rice or any other food stuffs. The audience did heckle on cue—Janet was called a slut when she was introduced, and Brad was called an “asshole.” A large part of the opening night audience dressed in costume: black makeup and lipstick, fishnet stockings, heels, leather etc. I went dressed as a ‘theatre critic’ with absolutely no dress sense whatsoever.

Some of the heckles are hilarious giving the lines before the cast says them and the cast was up for it without a blink. Perhaps there are plants in the audience?

The singing is uniformly strong—it is a loud show but you can hear every single word. Erica Peck as Magenta and Robert Markus as Riff Raff are fearless belters.

Dan Chameroy plays Dr. Frank N Furter with swagger, style and knows how to play to the audience and is totally compelling. The build up to the good Doctor’s entrance is impressive. A door opens and a platform appears in bright white light and smoke. The platform moves downstage and on it in silhouette is Dr. Frank N Furter in a cape. He flips it aside and there he is, strapping, muscular, wearing a leather bustier and fishnet stockings and heels. He sings that he is “a sweet transvestite from Transsexual Transylvania.”

Chameroy has a wonderfully strong voice and such a leering way with a phrase. The air is thick with sexual innuendo because of Chameroy’s wicked way of playing his character.

Steve Ross plays the Narrator, a person who comes in for most of the insults and heckles from the audience and he is masterful. He is stodgy, almost formal, officious and knows how to play all the comedy seriously for the best laughs.

This is some of the best work that director/choreographer Donna Feore has done. It is wild, raucous, hedonistic and vibrant. The choreography is appropriately frenzied and leaves you breathless.  Michael Walton has lit this with dazzle as if it were a rock concert, which in part, it is. Dana Osborne’s costumes are witty and daring. The production is sublime.

Comment.  The Rocky Horror Show was written in 1973 and they were talking about gender fluidity even then. So this is a huge surprise—not that it’s so much fun and entertaining, but that it’s sobering how ahead of it’s time this show is. It’s talking about being the ‘other,’ about sexuality, gender issues and it’s doing it with irreverence—in this castle in the isolated woods—because in the big world these people would not be accepted, and worse, they would be eliminated in some places. This isn’t a spoiler—the show is 45 years old and is a cult favourite.  I think that is an important point in 2018. Gender fluidity and sexual duality is everywhere in The Rocky Horror Show.

Presented by the Stratford Festival.

Opened: June 2, 2018.

Closes: Oct. 31, 2018.

Running Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes, approx.

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1 Brian Stein July 20, 2018 at 12:11 am

If Rocky was 2 1/2 hours when you saw it, it’s been considerably tightened since then. With all the reprises at the end I was out in 1h55. And glad of it. Take your pick — Rocky Horror or Rocky Horrible. I thought of the two Donna Feore musicals, this one was short-shrifted. I think all her energy and imagination went into The Music Man.