SALT LAKE CITY — The Grand Theatre has produced The Rocky Horror Show by Richard O’Brien that was a delight for the many fans of this cult classic and to the uninitiated like me. The show has the perfect Halloween feel, mixed with material for a mature audience . . . or maybe an immature audience over the age of 21. Thought it was my first time, this show impressed me to the point that I may just make it a yearly October tradition and join the cult.
The director, Anne Stewart-Mark, helped this hilarious musical begin with complete darkness and the phantoms coming from behind the audience with flashlights, the captain giving my friend Mentos from her tray of movie treats. During the song “Over at the Frankenstein Place,” the phantoms faces were so hilarious, one of them putting his wide-eyed creepy smile right between the heads of the two unsuspecting lovers. Later in the show the blocking became more sexually explicit, and some moves made me wonder if the actors were safe.
Aimee Pike’s choreography was fun, packed with classic steps in songs like “The Time Warp,” which the audience got to try with them at the end. I loved the little ways the actors flicked their hands and moved their bodies to add to the strange nature of the dances. There were a few moments when a performer missed a move, but overall the look of everyone moving in unison was fantastic. One of the best parts in unison was when the actors came in from both sides, bobbing their heads like chickens during one of the last songs.
Halee Rasmussen designed a beautiful set that still worked for this eerie show. I loved the creepy house with the lantern slowly coming up to the window, and the dazzling curtain near the end was impressive, as was the way she created (with lighting design by Seth Miller) the backdrop clouds to flash dark during lightning. The costumes (designed by Shannon Mccullock), likewise, were an assset to the show, and Mccullock made those drag queens look good. I think my favorite costume appeared at the end when Rocky came out in drag with his corset covering his torso, but not his chest. Then the others came out all wearing the same costume.
While I loved the performers, it often was hard to hear them, either because of too much noise onstage, too little articulation, or problems with the sound system. At one point Dr. Scott had to receive a hand-held microphone to be heard, and even then he had to turn it on himself. I was relieved to be able to hear the last bit of the song he was singing and sad to miss the first part. Rock’s mic was also too quiet most of the time to hear his amazing voice that I read great things about in the program.
Daniel Beecher played Frank ‘N’ Furter with great style. His flamboyant and confident presence fit the character perfectly. He also wore his drag outfit hilariously, with his stomach poking out just slightly from under the corset and his uneven stockings adding to his unpredictable nature. One minute he was an adoring host and the next he was chasing Eddie with a chainsaw. One of the most enjoyable actors was Kenneth Starling, playing Riff Raff. He was so good in the way he could combine his lowered suspicious facial expression and his riveting dance moves. And his demeanor changed so drastically at the end along with his costume, it helped me follow the crazy storyline.
Rayne Cade was a fantastic Rocky Horror, having obviously pumped plenty of iron for the role. He meshed well with the other actors and was able to change quickly from the cute innocent puppy attitude to the more confident decisive lover of Janet. Jenni McKay expertly played the role of Janet Weiss, the “Slut!” (No, really. That’s what the audience shouts every time her full name is spoken.) I thought her reaction to Rocky was awesome.
Columbia is a tricky role, and Ellie Gallagher executed it well. Gallagher had advanced tap dancing skills, but was also capable of showing deep moments for her character when she seems to turn against Frank and changes her mind drastically at the end. Gallagher also had a moment where she reacts completely ludicrously to some magic mist that puts everyone else into a relaxing sleep. It looked like she had so much fun with that part.
I could say much more about The Rocky Horror Show, but it’s better for readers to just see the show. Whether you’re already a fan or you’re new to this bizarre play, just know you’re in for a wild ride.