It’s probably been over thirty years since I set foot in a movie theater for a midnight showing of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” so I was very pleasantly surprised when friends invited me to accompany them to a live performance of the original 1973 stage production.
The play was staged at the PM&L Theatre in Antioch, IL, far, far removed from the Chicago Loop Theater district. That was just fine, because we never would have been sitting in the fifth row in a venue that held maybe 150- 200 persons. Director Donna Abear made good use of the small stage by having performers in the aisles for some of the exits and entrances. It must have been an old movie house, because there was no orchestra pit. The band (drums, keyboards, guitar, bass, and sax) were on an elevated platform in the back corner.
The popularity of Rocky Horror comes from the audience enhancements that turned a B-movie spoof of a B-movie into a cult classic. The theater provided an “audience participation” bag since they wanted to ensure the “safety and cleanliness of
our theatre.” The kit equipped with newspaper for the “rain” inside the theater, as well as other “tchochkes” including a flashlight, bell, whistle, kleenex, latex glove, and two playing cards. The usherette provided “cues” for the appropriate times to use said props. Another crew member shouted the audience retorts that the movie goers have uttered at the screen for years. So poor Janet was the recipient of the verbal taunt of “slut” every time her name was mentioned, and the narrator was chastised about his lack of a visible neck, even though our narrator was not missing that part of his anatomy.
The costuming was excellent, complete with knee high platform boots, black garters, and fishnet tights for Dr. Frank-N-Furter, who was played perfectly by Brandon Ghislain. Edward Lupella and Jim Behr also deserve kudos for their portrayal of Brad and Riff Raff respectively. Randi Beyer, a trained opera, singer didn’t quite hit the notes always as Janet, but was a dead ringer (translation – nice rack and red hair) for Susan Sarandon from the movie version. Wes Jones was a very buff Rocky, but I think I caught him lip synching his parts. The rest of the cast complemented the show very well.
All in all, it was a great evening, and brought back a ton of memories of the Friday and Saturday nights when we would go to the long since closed SouthPark Mall cinemas in Charlotte NC, throw rice and toast at the screen, and wave our lighters during “Over at the Frankenstein Place.” Saturday was the last day, so it’s too late to catch the fun. If there was ever a play due for a downtown revival, this would be it.
Filed under: Theater