To be perfectly honest, I have never seen a production of The Rocky Horror Show. Nor have I watched the film version, The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I came into the UC Follies production at Victoria College last week completely unaware of what I was about to experience. I had heard that there was going to be crowd participation involved, but I had no idea what that actually entailed.
So it came as a surprise when, during the middle of the production, one of the main cast members exclaimed, “Brad, I’m wet!” an audience member sitting to the right of me shouted back “Yeah, I bet you are!”
At that point I realized exactly what I was getting myself into.
For those who have not yet experienced The Rocky Horror Show, the musical is set in the late 1950s and follows the recently engaged Brad (Peter Grant Mackechnie) and Janet (Meredith Free), who happen upon a forbidding castle run by the transvestite Dr. Frank N. Furter (Shak Haq). The musical parodies B-movie science fiction from the ‘50s by oversexing the dialogue, costumes and musical numbers to such a degree that it truly is absurd and slightly shocking, even by today’s standards – the numerous jokes about various kinds of sex can attest to this.
Of course, the most important question is whether or not the UC Follies production managed to succeed in capturing the best of Rocky Horror. And aside from a few bumps, they managed to pull off an excellent show.
The performances themselves were all appropriately camp, treating the material with a mixture of straight faced seriousness and disbelief at the very concept of the musical that brought in many laughs and comments from the audience. Take the Narrator (Lauren Goodman), for example, whose Southern drawl and old-fashioned getup caused one audience member to compare the character to Colonel Sanders. Shortly thereafter, someone shouted, “Finger-lickin’ good!” and the Narrator actually stopped and licked her fingers before continuing her monologue. Every performer interacted with the audience in some way, which greatly contributed to the lighthearted atmosphere of the show.
Similarly, the costume design was garish enough to give the production a low budget feel, which keeps in line with the B-movie vibe that resonates throughout the performance. And even though I wasn’t amazed by the costumes, they were good enough for a friend of mine to be convinced that the actor playing Dr. Frank N. Furter was actually a woman.
What was not amazing about the production, and my biggest complaint, was the sound design. During some of the musical numbers, I had trouble understanding what was actually being said, as the sound became muffled several times. Perhaps it was because the musical was set in a chapel, or maybe it had something to do with the speakers. Either way, I actually had to look up the lyrics to several songs to understand what everyone was singing about, and I would much rather have focused on the performances than my iPhone screen.
As the last performance of the season, I was impressed by what the UC Follies did with one of the most widely known musicals of the late 20th Century. And despite some setbacks, I’m looking forward to what they have to offer in the 2012-2013 season.
Besides, I can’t wait to do the Time Warp again.