Bold, energetic and full of heart, The Rocky Horror Show by Rebel Knock Out Productions (currently at the Metro Studio October 24-November 1, 2014) was an initiation to the cult classic musical that exceeded all my expectations.
How I’ve missed both the film and the musical up to this point remains a mystery, and other than a few signature songs I was completely in the dark, other than availing myself of a plot synopsis.
Thankfully I wasn’t the only “virgin” in a packed and sold-out theatre on Saturday night. The organizers made a wise decision to open the doors early given the truly dark and stormy night—the audience, many bedecked in signature bustiers, high heels and fishnet stockings, and armed with prop bags (on sale at the door as no outside props are allowed) flocked in.
Newbies (many, like me, in street clothes), carefully opened the bags and read the instructions assiduously. There was a great spirit of camaraderie as people shared tips and stories. I was struck by the wide variety of ages in the crowd—all the way from teens to people in their seventies.
The band, orchestrated by music director Stephanie Sartore, and consisting of many Ride the Cyclone alumni was already grooving. The Phantoms (Paul Shortt and Andy Liu) circulated, engaging people in conversation.
This live version of the hit 1973 musical is the fledging show for Victoria’s newest theatre company RKO (Rebel Knockout) Productions founded by Kelly Hudson, Griffin Lea, Candace Woodland and Sarah Anne Murphy. It’s a bold undertaking, financed in part by a very successful IndieGoGo campaign.
Enlisting the assistance of Atomic Vaudeville’s Britt Small as director, and James Insell (Ride the Cyclone) as designer, the company has selected some of the city’s finest young musical theatre talent for the cast, many of whom are Canadian College of Performing Arts grads and Kaleidoscope Theatre alumni. (Kaleidoscope mounted a version of Rocky Horror Show in 2013 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the musical, as a fundraiser, and many of the current cast had roles in that production).
The leads (Sarah Anne Murphy as Janet, R.J. Peters as Brad and Griffin Lea as Frank N’ Furter) are uniformly strong. Of particular note are the contrasting vocal styles—Murphy and Peters with their “oh gosh, gee” tone reminiscent of the 50s and 60s, paired with the sensual and sultry timbre of Lea.
The major minions—Kelly Hudson (Riff Raff), Steph Sartore (Magenta) and Candace Woodland (Columbia) are formidable belters—I can’t think of a better musical to fully engage their lush voices. What a pleasure to have Lindsay Robinson (Rocky) on a local stage again—he’s only recently returned from an active career back east. And Alex Judd (Eddy/Dr Scott) more known for roles with Langham Theatre and the Greater Victoria Shakespeare Society can definitely hold his own vocally, with a highlight being the rousing ensemble number Hot Patootie.
The phantoms (Sadie Evans, Joseph Goble, Trevor Hinton, Jana Morrison) excelled in the ensemble numbers, particularly in the finale Floor Show/Rose Tint My World with moves reminiscent of the Zeigfield Follies (choreography Sarah Anne Murphy)
In the role of the narrator J. McLaughlin commands attention—she’s the ideal person to set the stage and keep the narrative thread strong through out.
James Insell’s costumes designs are as campy as can be with particularly stunning and shimmering gowns for Riff Raff and Magenta as extraterrestrials. For the set he’s re-purposed the arch from Ride the Cyclone and fabricated an impressive display of circuitry and gadgets to represent the laboratory. Projections and shadow (lighting design R.J. Peters and Noelle Antonsen) are featured in Frank N’ Furter’s seduction scenes.
What struck me the most about the evening was the complete symbiosis between performers and audience—there was a profound sense of sharing a moment in time together, all out of love for a legendary show. I am reminded once again why I love live theatre so much.
Performed with exuberance and skill, RKO’s debut effort deserves high praise for the hard work of cast and crew. In a city filled with musical theatre talent, they have given notice.
When unsuspecting newlyweds Brad Majors (R. J. Peters) and Janet Weiss (Sarah Ann Murphy) find themselves stranded in the woods in the middle of the night, they are terrified to arrive at the mysterious door of Frank N’ Furter (Griffin Lea). Inside, they find that this deliciously charming, yet utterly unpredictable transvestite runs his household in the most unusual of ways.
The Rocky Horror Show by Rebel Knock Out (RKO) Productions
Metro Studio Theatre (corner of Quadra and Johnson)
Tickets starting at $30 available at www.ticketrocket.org
October 23rd,24th, 25th, 29th, 30th and November 1st at 8pm
October 31st 7pm and 10pm
No cell phones, no recording, no outside props, no throwing props at the stage.
Authorized Rocky Horror Prop Kits are available for sale in the lobby ($7).
Failure to comply will result in immediate removal from the theatre.
Rebel Knock Out Productions is a brand new theatre company located in gorgeous Victoria, BC. Established by four local actors, RKO aspires to create theatre that is sharp, polished, and off-beat. We are an artist’s collective endeavouring to provide meaningful opportunities for employment and mentorship to the Island’s top and emerging talent. In a region bursting with creativity, RKO strives to stand out from the crowd by producing shows that are unconventional, accessible, and truly representative of our vibrant and engaged community. We invite you to join us on this journey.
Disclaimer: I was graciously provided with a complimentary ticket to The Rocky Horror Show.
References and further reading:
Rocky Horror Show script and lyrics http://www.rockymusic.org/showdoc/rhs-1999-script.php