The 1975 film version of Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show has proven such an enduring cultural phenomenon that, at least in the United States, it has overshadowed the original stage musical. With the film still appearing regularly at many cinemas (like the Camera 3 and Guild Theatre here in Silicon Valley), it’s easy to forget that the musical was quite a phenomenon in its own right and in some places (the U.K., for instance) can actually be easier to find than a midnight screening of the movie version. However, once you’ve seen a live production of the musical, like the one currently at City Lights Theater Company, it’s not so easy to forget.
At CLTC, Chase Campbell and Alicia Gangi Malone portray the naïve couple Brad and Janet, who stumble upon the lair of transvestite mad scientist Dr. Frank N. Furter (played with cool licentiousness by Nathaniel Rothrock) and his entourage of assorted weirdos.
Perhaps you’re a fan of the movie but still a “virgin” in regards to the musical, in which case there are some things to be aware of. Here, Frank N. Furter’s creation Rocky (Michael Weiland in a gold speedo) can talk, and does so frequently. Some of the songs are arranged differently, and there is one number (“Once In a While,” sung by Campbell) which was cut from the film. There are some other minor differences that can make you look like a major square if you shout out the wrong call backs, so participate with care!
Matthew Gregg and Annie Donahey are undoubtedly the best parts of the show as Frank N. Furter’s skulking assistants, Riff Raff and Magenta (Donahey is also the “Usherette” who kicks things off with a dreamy rendition of “Science Fiction Double Feature”). Beyond this, CLTC’s production has everything you could want from Rocky Horror: a basic, trashy design reminiscent of B-movie schlock, choreography that uses the theater’s small space to its fullest effect, and a group of talented “Phantoms” providing backup singing and dancing. There are a few points at which the backstage band drowns out the singers’ voices, but for the most part the music, which places a strong emphasis on the show’s rock & roll aspects, sounds excellent. So go, have fun and do the “Time Warp” again. Your garter belt is optional.