The Spartanburg Little Theater recently concluded a production of The Rocky Horror Show at The Chapman Cultural Center in Spartanburg, part of its Fringe series.
Those who never saw the stage show, who have only seen the movie, were in for a treat. Rocky Horror began as a play, so this was returning to the origins. The film version, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, was an adaptation of The Rocky Horror Show stage production, which premiered at the Royal Court Theatre in London in 1973, running continuously in several venues until 1980. The movie was released in 1975 and became a cult hit at midnight movies, where it evolved into an interactive experience. Movie goers dressed up as their favorite characters and called back lines in the film. The Spartanburg Little Theater presentation followed this tradition. The production emphasized, even depended on, audience interaction.
The experience reminded one of a reunion tour by an aging rock band. Rocky Horror is, after all, forty years old. The material is no longer young and vibrant. Not stale, but certainly not fresh. The dialogue often stultified, the current production relied too often on over-the-top sexual innuendo to get a rise from the audience. The film, while managing the same shock, is more tasteful, leaving something to the imagination. In the Spartanburg Little Theater production, for example, Frank N Furter rises from underneath the sheets after pleasuring Brad and gratuitously wipes his lips like a hard core porn star. Perhaps it is a sign of the times. Grosser and grosser acts are required to shock these days.
But while the dialog limps along, there was the music, which has ultimately always been the essence of Rocky Horror. This production cooked! Reed Allison, Music Director, created a tasteful arrangement that was a joy to listen to, even though, or perhaps because, it was a variation of the soundtrack we’ve all heard a hundred times. The band played live, tucked up in a corner of the castle. The singing was also excellent, and the choreography by William Wilkins was delightful. Brandon Gaunt was stellar as Brad; Janet was ably played by Anna Lee Altman. But Brad and Janet cannot be the stars of Rocky Horror.
While worth the price of a ticket for the music and dance alone, the production wasn’t as satisfying as it might have been. In all fairness the original cast might have failed miserably, and we wouldn’t have had forty years of Rocky Horror, had it not been so lucky as to land Tim Curry. Without his magnetism, The Rocky Horror Show just didn’t shiver with anticipation. But Hot Patootie, bless my soul! It surely did Rock and Roll.