“The Rocky Horror Show” Time Warps into Old Town
TR Robertson ….It was on June 16, 1973, when Richard O’Brien, Jim Sharman and Richard Hartley and a small cast of brave Londoners opened an unknown musical in front of an audience of 63 people on London’s West End. “Time Warp” to March of 2016 and this former unknown play is still going and has been performed in front of millions of theater goers and in another version, movie goers. The latest version of the musical, “The Rocky Horror Show”, is currently on stage at the Cygnet Theatre in San Diego’s Old Town.
There are a variety of subtle changes usually made to “The Rocky Horror Show” when it is performed. Sean Murray, director and playing the lead role of Frank ‘n Furter, decided for his vision of “Rocky” he wanted to bring the show back in its original form, nine people in the cast, props that appeared to be from a low budget B sci-fi movie, honoring the original production. Working with a collaborative team of Musical Director Patrick Marion, Choreographer David Brannen, Costume Designer Jennifer Brawn Gittingss, Wig & Makeup Designer Peter Herman, Scenic Designer Andrew Hull, Assistant Director Jon Lorenz, Sound Designer Chris Luessmann, Stage Manager Maria Mangiavellano, Projections Designer Blake McCarty, Lighting Designer Chris Rynne and numerous others, the Cygnet Theatre version of “Rocky” takes the audience back in time to the early beginnings of this highly successful musical.
Photos by Ken Jacques
The early years of “Rocky” saw limited success in London but met with mixed reactions in the United States and an unsuccessful run on Broadway. Then came the movie version. The movie bombed in most cities, but an unusual occurrence began as the movie found a home around the United States in a midnight-movie circuit showing. Still in limited release nearly four decades after its premiere, the film version has the longest running theatrical release in film history and still commands a cult following. For this reason, when “Rocky” appears on stage, audiences flock to see what the “show” looks like up close and personal.
At the Cygnet as the audience filed in and took their seats, old 50’s-60’s B movie sci-fi snippets appeared on a white “curtain” hung on stage. Slightly hidden in the upper scaffolding was the 5 member band and next to them would be a two person chorus. The Cygnet version is as close as you can get to what “Rocky” must have looked like in the small London theatre when it opened. A strong cast with powerful voices moved through the memorable songs with ease. They handled the “call-outs” from the audience with ease, which have become a major part of any “Rocky” performance. Sean Murray presented a platinum, short cropped Frank ‘n Furter wearing the ever present bustier, gaudy heels and fish net stockings, complete with long eye lashes, over-the-top make-up and all of the mannerisms we love with this character. Jacob Caltrider as Brad Majors and Amy Perkins as Janet Weiss never lost character as the naïve boyfriend and girlfriend in this world of highly bizarre space aliens. Michael Cusiman was a booming voiced Riff Raff sporting a wig reminding us of Edgar Winter and Vista’s own Bets Malone never broke into a smile as she stayed in character and “slunk” around the castle as Magenta. Bets would begin and end the musical as the Usherette with a commanding voice, introducing what we would be seeing and what we just saw. This beginning was reminiscent of Ziggy Stardust and Spiders from Mars. Another tribute director Sean Murray was giving to “Glam Rock” that was portrayed in the musical. Sarah Errington was an unusual Columbia as she was shown as a “slutty school girl” as opposed to the usual sequined character. Other memorable performances were Steve Gouveia as both Eddie and a very funny Dr. Scott and Danny Hansen as Rocky, complete with curly locks and gold briefs reminding us of either a stitched together Hercules or Flash Gordon. Stealing the show and an audience favorite was Jim Chovick as the Criminologist. His interaction with the audience was clever, humorous and he had fun with the “call outs” giving back as well as he took the traditional comments. Singing back-up with every song and performing with their own choreography high up in the scaffolding were back-up singers Bryan Banville and Katie Sapper. The memorable songs had the audience singing along as well, songs such as “The Time Warp”, Touch-a-Touch-a Touch Me”, Science Fiction/Double Feature” and “I’m Going Home” to name a few. An encore of “Time Warp” had the audience standing and dancing at their seats.
The stage designs were fun, looking a lot like sets that might be built in an elementary school play complete with flashing lights, aluminum foil tables, large wheels and lots of buttons. Again reminiscent of the low budget approach the original musical would have enjoyed. Clever use of lighting and sound gave the simple set a more ominous look and created a variety of moods on stage. Also available for purchase are goodie bags for $5.00 containing a Cygnet keychain flashlight, a feather boa, playing cards, a newspaper and a Cygnet magnet.
“The Rocky Horror Show” is one of those musicals you should not miss. You do need to be ready for themes that push a range of issues, language and action on stage that might make some a little uneasy, but a musical that is so much fun you will want to see it again and again, as many have. Cygnet Theatre’s version of “Rocky” will give you an experience that will bring back memories of the original “Rocky”. The musical runs through May 1 at Cygnet Theatre in San Diego’s Old Town, 4040 Twiggs St. Tickets begin at $41 and can be purchased by calling 619-337-1525 or go to www.cygnettheatre.com.