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A CurtainUp Review
The Rocky Horror Show
The Rocky Horror Show Is Back

Terrence Mann

Terrence Mann
Slow ticket sales and the 9-11 events prompted the show to close on September 23rd, but with Broadway business picking up the show has reopened for a limited run, from 10/30/01-1/06/02. Terrence Mann, who took over the role before the show closed, is back on board as Frank-n-furter. Other cast changes include Sebastian Bach as Riff Raff, Liz Larsen as Columbia, Kristen Lee Kelly as Janet, Jonathan Sharp Rocky. Eddie/Dr. Scott, originally played by Lea DeLaria, will now be done true to gender by Jason Wooten. Actors back in their original roles are Daphne-Rubin Vega as Magenta and Jarrod Emick as Brad.

The biggest change will be that the narrator will rotate from week to week, beginning with the original, Dick Cavett. Following is the schedule for this rotating roster: Dick Cavett will play the first and last two weeks of the run. Jerry Springer (Nov. 27-Dec. 2), Sally Jesse Raphael (Dec. 11-16), Pen and Teller (Dec. 18-23), Dave Holmes (Nov. 20-25), Cindy Adams (Dec. 4-9) and Robin Leach (Nov. 6-11).

The new performance schedule is Fri @8PM, Sat @5PM & 9:45PM, Sun @2PM & 7PM, with tickets from $49.50-$85 (212) 239-6200.
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If I'd seen this show when I was 13, I would have been 40 the next day
---Dick Cavett, the show's original narrator
Tom Hewitt
Tom Hewitt, the original Frank-n-Furter (Photo: Carol Rosegg)
Having celebrated its twenty-fifth birthday as a cult, interactive entertainment, and with "interactive" the theatrical buzz word for attracting nontraditional theater goers, The Rocky Horror Show -- live and full of spectacular stagecraft seems a not to be missed opportunity for a producer with a finger on the pulse of "new" audiences. That producer is Jordan Roth and his new, live version of the cult movie as designed by David Rockwell is indeed quite a spectacle. It's eclectic cast adds the necessary star power and novelty to differentiate it from the film that's still running in the East Village, though the $79.95 price tag makes for an even more immediate night and day difference ($89.95, if you spring for the garbage of participatory props hawked in the lobby).

Casting Dick Cavett, who's known as one of TV's more intellectual talk show hosts, as the narrator may be viewed as a misstep or a stroke of genius. True Rocky Horror cultists might find his live TV show patter annoying or distracting, if not both. On the other hand, it adds a certain timeliness, and Cavett's awkward charm is a high five for conservative audience members to sit back and get into the hyperkinetic silliness of it all. For the producers, Cavett also paves the way for keeping the show in the news with a changing cast of celebrity narrators.

Before I go any further, I should confess that I came to the Circle In the Square a "Rocky virgin", having seen neither the show's short-lived Broadway or long-lived London incarnation, or the movie (which, after an inauspicious beginning, achieved cult status). The audience in fishnet stockings and other costumes that promised to provide a show before the show never materialized (bear in mind, however, that I went on a Monday night so this may happen more on weekends when people aren't coming from work)

As for the show itself, it's loud and glitzy (think Planet Hollywood and the arcades along the new 42nd Street). It's also a lot of fun and Richard O'Brien's music is appealingly bouncy.

According to my companion, who saw the movie several times during his college days, and a major Rocky fan seated to my left, the current extravaganza remain true to the plot -- if you can call it that. For the uninitiated, here it is in a nutshell:

The car of a seemingly American as apple pie couple is stalled in a rainstorm. They are Brad Majors (Jarrod Emick comfortably filling Barry Bostwick's shoes) and Janet Weiss (a deliciously dizzy and sexy Alice Ripley who, unlike the original Alice -- Susan Sarandon -- is an established Broadway performer). Brad and Alice's search for a phone leads them to transvestite cum mad scientist, Frank-n-Furter (Tom Hewitt, a dazzlingly camp blonde villain to satisfy even the most diehard fans of the movie version's Tim Curry). They find themselves prisoners and eventual participants in a bizarre fantasia of sexual diversity and biological experiments.

Usherette Uniform Sketch
David C. Woolard's sketch
for usherette uniforms<
Director Christopher Ashley has turned the challenging runway stage of the Circle In the Square into a most effective set that goes through several gasp inducing transformations. A replica of an old-fashioned movie palace, complete with draped proscenium and seats occupied by several life-sized dummies, sets the scene for the opening and closing hit number "Science Fiction Double Feature". The singer-usherettes are Daphne Rubin-Vega (the original Mimi in Rent) and rocker Joan Jett (bald and with her guitar), both of whom also handle the showy parts of Magenta (Rubin-Vega) and Columbia (Jett).

Ashley cleverly introduces Alice and Brad as characters in a black and white movie. When they emerge from behind the scrim/screen, the movie-house flip-flops out of sight (we are also treated to several clever video screen scenes) and we enter Frank-N-Furter zany rocky horror universe.

As mentioned, I saw no audience members who tried to match the costumes, in this show designed with sexy flair by David C. Woolard. However, spurred by what seemed obvious "plants" at the rear of each seating section, the rainstorm and "Damn It, Janet" produced some genuine interactivity -- the audience covered its heads with Playbills and sent little points of lights flickering around the house with the pocket flashlights handed out to early arrivals by a roving member of the company. There was also lots of confetti tossed about.

Other Frank-N-Furter foes, friends and lovers contribute to the grizzly enjoyment --
  • Raul Esparza is a darkly sinister Riff Raff.
  • Sebastian LaCause excels as Frank-N-Furter's experiment in creation, a muscular, ambi-sexterous
  • boy toy.
  • The one and only Lea DeLaria here manages to be two one and only characters, the ill-fated Eddie the biker and his uncle, Dr. Scott.
  • Everyone except DeLaria gets to dance, courtesy of Jerry Mitchell's snappy choreography.
Not to take anything away from the performers, the real sizzle of this Rocky Horror Show rests with David Rockwell's eye-popping stagecraft -- especially the ceiling fixture with a people carrying contraption that falls and rises in a cloud of smoke.. The always inventive David Gallo bathes Rockwell's environment in just the right "on a dark and stormy night" glow.

What was shocking twenty-five years ago is still provocative enough for me to wonder a bit at Lea DeLaria's claim during a recent TV interview that families with kids were filling the house on weekends. For guidance as to whether to take even post grade and middle school kids to this show, I'd refer to Dick Cavett's quote (during the above mentioned interview and during the performance I attended). Bring your thirteen to seventeen year olds -- but only if you want them to take a giant leap to age forty.

Age appropriateness aside, this show's core audience is unlikely to blossom into a more serious theater constituency. But then again, even Dick Cavett is unlikely to have Roundabout or Lincoln Center subscribers line up to meet Janet and Brad and Frank 'N'Furter.

Book, music and lyrics by Richard O'Brien
Directed by Christopher Ashley

Cast: Tom Hewitt (Frank-n-Furter), Joan Jett (Usherette, Columbia), Dick Cavett (Narrator), Daphne Rubin-Vega (Usherette, Magenta), Lea DeLaria (Eddie/Dr Scott), Alice Ripley (Janet), Jarrod Emick (Brad), Raul Esparza (Riff Raff), Seastian LaCause (Rocky).
See Box at top of this page for current cast
Choreographer: Jerry Mitchell
Set Design: David Rockwell
Costume Design: David Woolard
Lighting Design: Paul Gallo
Sound Design: T. Richard Fitzgerald, Domonic Sack
Orchestrations: Doug Katsaros
Musical Director: Henry Aronson
Running time: 2 hours, includes one intermission
Circle in the Square, 1633 Bway, (at 50th St), 239-6200
Performances from 10/20/2000 -10/23/01; opened 11/15/200
Reopened 10/30/01-- through 1/06/02
Tue - Fri at 8pm; Sat at 5pm, 9:45pm; Sun at 2pm, 7pm
Tickets $30-79.50
Current performance schedule and prices: Fri @8PM, Sat @5PM & 9:45PM, Sun @2PM & 7PM with tickets from $49.50-$85
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer based on 11/13 performance
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