First of all, let’s get this out of the way:
What does the Rocky Horror Show have in common with a theatre festival whose mainstay is William Shakespeare?
Well, cross-dressing and sexual innuendo, of course.
What fun the Bard might have had playing Frank N. Furter—the transvestite from Transsexual, Transylvania is a part to—quite literally—die for.
Coming as the grand finale to the 2018 season’s first week of openings, Donna Feore’s realization of both Richard O’Brien’s groundbreaking play (1973) and portions of the 1975 film, the director-choreographer’s productions became the bookends of a week that was meant to start with gender-bending Prospero (Martha Henry) in Shakespeare’s The Tempest.
Had everything gone to plan (foiled by a hoax of a bomb threat), Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino’s vision of interlinked programming would have come to an extraordinary full circle.
And for once, the extra-loud decibel count was an abject pleasure, invigorating the cast and the crowd as the well-known scenes played out, instilling the Avon Theatre with a sense of oneness and community that is as rare as governments getting along (allies or not) and as welcome as needed rain in this challenging week.
Spreading the unrepentant theme of pleasure ahead of all else more widely would make the world a much better place: far better than getting turned on by ugly bullying, false superiority and power mongering.
Seen just six hours after the much darker To Kill a Mocking Bird (cross-reference below), this invigorating musical with copious amounts of bare skin flashing across the stage was a welcome dose of what humanity does best—if allowed: celebrate ourselves without shame or fear.
Watching the healthy, fit bodies (admirably led by the Phantoms) was a visual treat with every gyration and turn.
Following Janet (Jennifer Rider-Shaw) and fiancé Brad (Sayer Roberts) discover their inner sexuality was a delightful cautionary tale for so many others who never “dabble” before taking the wrong vows.
Cheering, booing and tossing in unexpected lines at the narrator (Steve Ross—superb in every appearance) drew the audience into the action (many of the cutting asides came from veterans—lots of those dressed as their favourite character—of previous performances; the rest were carefully scripted to keep the party going).
The aliens were well represented by Robert Markus (soaring to new heights in the laser scene) as Riff Raff, Erica Peck’s Magenta and most especially Kimberley-Ann Truong as Columbia—the F-U moment was unforgettable.
Barely dressed in a skimpy, glittering brief, George Krissa’s Rocky was a curly blond homage to the equally muscled Peter Hinwood in the film. In both cases the wonderfully sculpted physiques most assuredly delighted patrons of all persuasions and caused not a few of those to pray for a wardrobe malfunction!
As the star of the show, Dan Chameroy delved deep into his inner drag and, er, fired on all cylinders (his initiations of both Janet and Brad into the “other” side of sex was a blanket comedy of the highest order.
Those familiar with this cult of sensuality at all costs and newcomers just kicking the tires of “frowned upon” activities, must grab a boa and discover, perhaps, more than could ever have imagined.
The other learning, sadly, from this show which tells it like it could be, is that horror is more prevalent in the real world than in the imaginations of those who choose to fight back, one garter at a time. JWR