SALT LAKE CITY — The University of Utah Department of Theatre held opening night of Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show February 19, 2010 to a standing room only crowd. This production is a hard one to review. For those who are cult followers of the film version, I may seem uneducated and unenlightened. For those of you who are somewhat insecure with your sexuality or of how it is portrayed you may feel I am too liberal and celebratory of the so-naughty-it’s-nice production.
I saw the film version in 1980 at a theater in Chicago with live actors augmenting the action on screen. Since last night wasn’t my first time with the show I guess I wouldn’t be considered a “virgin.” For those who are, posted in the lobby are two signs about five feet tall stating “WARNING, ADULT CONTENT AND SCENES OF HIGHLY SEXUAL NATURE.” Sorry, I didn’t get the exact wording, but you get the idea.
About ten minutes before the show started, actors started slithering onto the stage, very vampire like. The band, directed by Derek Howa, was amazing consisting of keyboards, drums, electric bass and electric guitar and a sexy sax.
The first act begins with one wedding and ends with another. The narrators, Jordan Novotny and Zoe Rhyme, guide us on our journey through this bizarre story of Janet and Brad who get off the beaten path with a flat tire and end up at a castle full of transsexuals and transvestites from a foreign world and their servants called phantoms. What follows is singing, dancing and a whole lot of naughty fun. The show is more sensual than sexual even though there are some “in your face” moments—the most humorous, measured by audience laughter, begins of the second act. The cast has some very talented voices with some awesome solos. There were times when some words were lost by the ensemble, but the dancing and entertainment was so full of energy and fun that any minor complaints didn’t matter.
The set, designed by Halee Rasmussen, is very techno, constructed in steel square tubing framing black platforms about eight feet in the air on both sides of the stage. There are stairs from each platform leading down to a runway at center stage—so grateful the director didn’t overdo the pole dancing.
Bravo to lighting designer Jesse Portillo. My favorite number was “Time Warp.” His tasteful use of moving lights was a feast for the senses. The use of lighting behind a screen during some of the more graphic sexual scenes helped add to the humor of the situation and draw attention away from the awkward, overt sexuality. Some things are better left to the imagination.
Audience participation at The Rocky Horror Show is part of the cult following of the show. Audience members came dressed up like members of the cast—bustiers and fishnet stockings were very popular. Many audience members yelled out lines to go along with the show. I spoke with a cast member and asked how they were asked to deal with the improvisational element of the show and she said they were told to acknowledge them and get back to telling the story. I was lucky enough to be right behind one of the most talented audience participants and got a big kick out of his contributions.
The production is general seating and tickets are selling fast so you may want to come early if you have a seating preference. The Babcock is an intimate theatre so there really isn’t a bad seat in the house. Also in the lobby you’ll find prop bags on sale for $3.00 (with instructions) so no worries about bringing your own, in fact, they prefer you don’t.
Audiences who would enjoy this show must be open to overt sexual situations and mature themes. If this is you then you will have a lot of fun seeing how nice naughty can be. Would I go again? Sure but not with anyone under 18.
- Actress: Summer Spence as Janet Weiss for acting, expression and energy.
- Vocal performance: Gabriela Caro as usherette for a hypnotically beautiful performance.
- Actor: John Terry as Frank N. Furter for being out there and making it work… in heals.
- Vampire: Ryon J. Sharette .I know he is a Transylvanian. But he looked like a vampire to me and when his sister bit Frank in the arm toward the end of the show, I was convinced they were vampires.
- Costume: Rocky’s; what little there was that the golden glittering man of muscle wore.
- Worst costume: Columbia’s shorts and white boots. But I really enjoyed your tap dancing and singing Chelsie Cravens.