Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Applause! Applause! Review of The Rocky Horror Show at Cultural Arts Playhouse by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens

This review of the musical The Rocky Horror Show performed at the Cultural Arts Playhouse was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 2 (2012) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

The Rocky Horror Show
Cultural Arts Playhouse (625 Old Country Road, Plainview, NY)
Reviewed 7/8/12

The Rocky Horror Show, a long-running horror comedy stage musical, opened in London, England on June 19, 1973. It was written by Richard O'Brien, produced and directed by Jim Sharman. It tells the story of a newly engaged couple, Brad and Janet, who get a flat tire in a storm and visit the home of a transvestite scientist in search of a phone to call for help (This was, of course, in a time before cell phones). That scientist, Dr. Frank-N-Furter, was in the process of unveiling his new creation, Rocky Horror, who he intends to marry (Frank's previous partners were Eddie and originally, Columbia). The musical was adapted into the 1975 film The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which today has a worldwide cult following. The Rocky Horror Show had a revival on Broadway, which did not last long, but a second revival from October 2000 to January 2002 at the Circle in the Square Theatre was nominated for Tony Awards in the  Best Actor, Best Costume Designer, Best Director and Best Musical Revival categories.  
The Rocky Horror Show at Cultural Arts Playhouse, playing Saturdays at midnight through August, provides an enjoyable experience to all who are lucky enough to see it. If you are a "virgin" (someone who has not seen the play before), the audience participation and call backs might irk you but it is all part of the fun. What started as ad lib responses to the script of the play or movie has evolved into more tightly scripted acceptable responses occasionally altered by creative new lines and modern cultural references. A wrong call back might draw a bad reaction but a good one will be applauded. The only problem is that a prejudiced audience member might feel they have permission to express their distaste for something they observe such as Dr. Frank-N-Furter and Rocky going arm in arm to their bridal suite after getting married. Just as audience members continue to call Janet a "slut", others could, in theory, call Brad or Frank a "fag" or say, "why don't you come out of the closet already" not fully understanding the multi-leveled sexual preferences portrayed in the script.                                                                                                                                       

While the play may be a parody of "B" Science Fiction movies, I believe it has drawn its large fan base due to its basic message that it's O.K. to be different. Dr. Frank-N-Furter, played with attitude by Phil Rosenburg, is a self-confident, but vulnerable, transvestite who sexually seduces both Brad and Janet, innocent kids who end up experiencing more than they anticipated before the night is over (and it's not even "half-bad", is it?). Riff Raff, a drug-using hunchbacked handyman, and Magenta, his sister and the maid, are servants who have a problem with Frank's "extreme lifestyle" yet it is implied by their "elbow sex" dance they may actually be sleeping with each other. Finally, all Frank's guests who do the Time Warp are dressed very uniquely sending the message that all are welcome in this menagerie of aliens from Transsexual, Transylvania, and by extension, you are welcome no matter how unconventional and abnormal you may be. This all comes across as encouraging people to be themselves and this message is a universal one with great attraction to young people seeking to develop their own unique style and identity.         
Overall, the cast was very talented. Phil Rosenburg commanded the stage as he needed to in the role of Dr. Frank-N-Furter. William Manton and Samantha Kramer as Brad Majors and Janet Weiss, respectively, were believable as the innocent kids. Danielle Jenkin was impressive as Columbia. Ashley Nicastro and Matthew DeMaria as Magenta and Riff Raff succeeded in making the audience dislike their characters (As an aside, it appeared by his costume that Riff Raff came from the planet Ork instead of the planet Transsexual). There was alternative casting as Maggie Robinson, a woman, played both Eddie and Dr. Scott. Jesse Pimpinella was perfect as Rocky. If you're going to make yourself a man, then Jesse, given his good looks and attractive body, is the man you'd want to make. Mike Visconti as the Narrator really hit some high notes by improvising dialogue and scenes such as when he continued to offer his cell phone to Brad (who was looking for a phone to call for help) and when he continued to "come on" to Rocky once even attempting to kiss him. However, then there were moments that didn't work quite so well such as when he over-reacted to audience call backs or when he placed his hand up between his and Jesse's lips because he didn't tell Jesse or the Director what he planned to do. Zachary Levy did a great job directing this production allowing for improvisation that resulted in Dr. Scott, the rival scientist, getting killed in the end when he didn't move off stage fast enough. Such unexpected plot twists can add a new dimension of enjoyment to watching this musical.                                                                                                                                                                          
All your favorite musical numbers are here including Science Fiction/Double Feature, Time Warp and Sweet Transvestite but if I had to choose the song that best reflects the theme of this musical, I would say it's "Don't Dream It, Be It!"

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