The cast of the “Rocky Horror Show” gives a final sweet long goodbye during the show’s curtain call. Photo by Jasmyne Ray for The Alabamian.
Reynolds Hall was filled with an expansive crowd on the night of Wednesday, Nov. 11, the opening night of UM Theatre Department’s production of “The Rocky Horror Show.” The crowd was filled with a wide range of observers, from older community members to students who had arrived in their finest Rocky-esque garb.
Ushers made it clear immediately upon entering that this show was heavy on fan participation, news that was simultaneously thrilling and nerve wracking. There were inserts in the program called “cheat sheets” that detailed certain lines that were to be answered during the course of the show, and a booth sold fan participation kits, or “prop bags,” for three dollars each.
Having never before experienced the cult classic film which many in the crowd were obviously not only familiar with but excessively fond of, it was strangely intimidating to be surrounded by so many participants who understood what exactly was about to occur.
From the moment I entered the theater and found my seat, I was captured by the tangible excitement that filled the room. The nervous energy of an opening night coupled with obvious excitement of the show’s fans filled the space.
Patrons were treated to a time warp tutorial shortly before the show began, and we were instructed on the specifics of the call-and-response dialogue and the timing of using the fan participation kits. The lights then dimmed, and Richard O’Brien’s enduring creation began.
Kendra Johnson entered the auditorium and kicked off the show with a sultry and spectacular rendition of “Science Fiction Double Feature,” and then the story began. The setup of the stage was innovative and engaging, utilizing two screens on both sides of the stage upon which actors interfaced phones to projectors, allowing the performance to achieve a cinematic quality through dynamic angles and close-ups of the characters.
As it was the opening night, it was not surprising when this system was not foolproof. Occasionally, the plot was affected by the technical difficulties, as there was a scene where Janet was supposed to see Brad betraying her, but it never actually appeared on the screen. While these moments were frustrating for both cast and audience, the actors recovered well and continued the show.
I had seen many images referencing the film interpretation and the characters did not look like what I expected to see. Personally, I enjoyed the funky wigs and eccentrically colored costumes, though I heard several comments following the show that questioned this decision.
Michael Cleary and Shelley McMoy shined as the starry-eyed Brad and Janet, who find themselves just a little turned around in the beginning of the musical. The real fun begins as they make their way to Frank n’ Furter’s castle and are changed by the raunchy characters they find there.
Spectacular performances were given by all involved, from the daring and dynamic Chris Sams’ portrayal of Frank n’ Furter, to Nick Stokes’ overtly masculine and scantily clad Rocky, I was struck by just how much talent is to be found in Montevallo. The musical numbers featured tight harmonies and flawless choreography, all putting together an extremely entertaining show.
As mentioned previously, this story was new to me and I feel that there were a few moments where I was confused by plot progression. For instance, one aspect of the show that was particularly baffling was a scene where James Powers portrayed both Eddie and Dr. Scott.
Powers delivered solid performances of both characters, slipping from the ghastly form of Eddie to the heavily accented Dr. Scott, but having him appear as both characters sequentially on stage made for a moment of puzzlement as I tried to piece together who was who in the story.
I feel that had I already been familiar with the story and been a fan of it, I would have found the experience to be more rich, though admittedly not an amount significant enough for a radically different viewing experience. It was apparent that the show did hold more nostalgia for those who had attended events similar to this before, such as screenings of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”
Though I experienced moments of confusion, I enjoyed every bawdy, goofy moment and am ready to do the time warp again.