It’s official: The Rocky Horror Show just won’t go away. And aren’t we happy and fortunate that this is the case? Hamilton Theatre Inc. obviously thinks so, as their new (sold out) production is currently onstage.
From the moment this wild and untamed tribute to sci-fi flicks of the 1950’s saw the light of day (night?) in 1973, it has arguably gone on to inherit the mantle of perhaps the greatest piece of cult theatre of our time.
Public reaction to the 1975 film version, The Rocky Horror Picture Show only intensified the sublime madness. Midnight screenings and shadowcasts in the subsequent decades elevated the film version to cult status on par with, or perhaps surpassing 1959’s Plan 9 from Outer Space or 1932’s Freaks, depending on who you ask.
And while the 2015 London live simulcast may have reinvigorated the franchise, was there anyone left out there who was unfamiliar with the tale of Brad and Janet? Their close encounters with aliens, ex–Nazis, and fantastic creatures of the night were already the stuff of pop culture legend.
That said, one must encounter each new live version of The Rocky Horror Show free of the desire to compare it to the film. No small task, considering how the performances of Tim Curry, Patricia Quinn, Meatloaf, Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick et al., have imprinted themselves on our collective retinas and eardrums for 40+ years.
HTI has bravely ventured into the fray. Have they succeeded in creating something new and unique in its own way? This, reader, is what we shall now explore. (Insert deafening electric guitar riffs here).
In his programme notes, Director Matt Moore traces his history with Rocky Horror in its many forms and expresses thanks for the opportunity to shape his vision into reality, but remains vague about what that vision is, beyond transmitting the message of ‘Don’t Dream It…Be It”. Happily, he has at his disposal a talented group of actors, singers, dancers and musicians from whom we must extrapolate this.
Set design (by Moore and Paddy Skinner) is quite spare, consisting of two large rolling set pieces to be deployed in various configurations as required. The Band are ensconced in a mezzanine behind and above the action.
As the action unfolds, it becomes clear that the best moments tend to be those when there is well thought-out choreography in place. Choreographer Katlyn Alcock has created excellent stage pictures with her dance routines and the cast have been well drilled to make the sequences picture-perfect in unison, timing, energy and clean movement. “Time Warp” is a marvel of energetic precision, and inspired much head–bobbing and chair dancing in the audience.
Things seem less clockwork perfect in other sequences. And although the energy has been kept in high gear from the outset, it seemed to drop at key moments, such as Frank–N–Furter’s entrance. The “Time Warp” is meant to be an introduction to something even more amazing. In this production, the reverse is the case. Frank appears out of nowhere and is wearing low–heeled black granny shoes with some red rhinestones attached. Not to put too fine a point on it, but this is unacceptable. There’s nothing wrong with Luis Paredes’ performance, but the costume and the staging for this number let him (and us) down. What should be perhaps the centrepiece of the show becomes just another number. Paredes’ however shows off a strong lower range as he growls out “Sweet Transvestite”.
Act II highlights include “Touch–a–Touch Me”, “Eddie’s Teddy” again for outstanding choreography, “Floor Show” and the reprise of “Science Fiction” because it’s just so beautiful to listen to.
Standouts in this talented cast include: Gus Adam who, while being appropriately menacing as Riff Raff, has one of the strongest and most electrifying voices onstage. It’s a shame he didn’t get to sing more. Keri Bishop as Columbia is everything a performer should be in Rocky Horror. She has the presence, the stage sense and the big voice to shine in this production. And she does. Ed Canning as Dr. Scott comes across as a wonderfully nervous ball of energy with comic timing to spare. Somehow, he has ended up wearing the glittery platform heels that Frank–N–Furter should have worn. Erin Spina gives a solid performance as Janet and gets to show off her dance chops in “Toucha Toucha Me”. And an honourable mention goes to Jeff Gordon for his laconic and hilarious turn as the narrator.
Musically, this production is rock solid and each one of the band members (the Rock–ettes) is a virtuoso. Put them all together and you have a brilliant ensemble.
If you don’t already have your tickets for this production, I’m afraid you’re out of luck, as all performances are sold out. However, if you were one of the smart ones who planned ahead, get your costume ready and prepare to enjoy. V
THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW
IS SOLD OUT
through the end of its run
Hamilton Theatre Incorporated
140 MacNab St. N.,