GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV)
Shucks. Writing for a mass market medium can be handcuffing. Stuff needs to be toned down. That is particularly the case with “The Rocky Horror Show,” an in-your-face satire on old sci-fi movies done with a notable transsexual character and an invitation for the audience to holler comment – like riding the umps at a baseball game, only with more color and off-color.
A campus production opened Thursday night in University Theater of the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay with a bit of electricity in the air, arcing from the stage.
Players sang, danced and acted in eye-catching getups like in a bizarre dark-fantasy dreamscape. Continually heard from knowing quipsters in the hall were remarks on the action and persona in the spotlight. The experience was like sitting in a vat of a bubbling froth of words sung and spoken.
The high point of this production is the performance of the leading player, Alex Sabin, as the central mad scientist. Dr. Frank N Furter is transsexual, bisexual and just plain sexual. In black patent-leather and sequined high heels or red patent-leather platform boots and Victoria’s Secret brevities, Alex Sabin assumes the being of an experimentisexual extraterrestrial.
The low point of the show is the story, a nonsensical jumble – like coat hangers on which to hang oddities and oddballs. No matter. The point of “The Rocky Horror Show” is its otherness, its just for the fun of it-ness.
“The Rocky Horror Show” is something of an inside joke because of the know-it-all participation from some in the audience. But most of the regular world is new to the stage show, which has:
+ An aura of sensuality. The leads end up in their underwear. The opening scene of Act II takes place in a bed with variations on two men and one female. That’s just for starters for what follows.
+ A go-for-it style. Characters are over-the-top and are played that way throughout this production.
+ Demands of discipline. A well-placed smart-aleck remark from the audience could throw off a performer, but director John Mariano has his players prepared for that (and much more). Without much flinching, players continued their lines while offering little touche responses of their own.
The setup is this: Girlfriend/boyfriend Janet (Faith Klick) and Brad (Cory J. O’Donnell) have a flat tire near a castle on a stormy night. Asking to use a phone leads them into a party that includes Dr. Frank N Furter and his minions/lust interests.
What creator Richard O’Brien has done is take the concept of Transylvania – that haunted/horror niche in the mind – and played with the “trans” part of the name. So the sci-fi/horror-flick characters not only are Goth, they have an added layer trans-porting them.
The cast throws itself into oh so much. The looks. The movements. The energy of such infectious dancing as for “The Time Warp.”
Music is live. And rocky/snappy. The orchestra is at the back of the castle, up above.
Faith Klick and Cory J. O’Donnell tongue-in-cheek their way through the innocence the naïve couple. It takes a certain steel to perform in undies in front of a crowd and maintain a character and a singing voice (Klick’s is smoother) and focus.
Sean Stalvey is something of an ice man as the Narrator. Thursday, the Narrator was the subject of flurries of audience comments that could have upended Stalvey, but Stalvey stayed the course.
One of the jokes in the show is Dr. Frank N Furter created a monster, Rocky, in the form of a perfect man the likes of Charles Atlas (a kind of gym-rat Adonis of the 1950s). In this production, Nick Myers Olson makes a pretty darn good, tone-muscled Rocky, shirtless and gold lamé jeans and singing voice and all.
Carrying spotlight moments are Chay Austyn Schmitt as the inviting singing Usherette, Andi Koene as the dangerous Riff Raff, Jasmine Christyne and Aisa Micaiah Rogers as duty-bound sisters Magenta and Columbia and Collen Cline in the double-duty dark-soul roles of Eddie/Dr. Scott.
The clincher role, again, is Alex Sabin/Dr. Frank N Furter. In recent years, the limber Sabin has been a chameleon actor on area community and professional stages.
The run of “The Rocky Horror Show” includes a local rarity – an 11 p.m. performance today, Nov. 22.
Flashback to a late-night showing of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” years ago at the West Theatre in Green Bay. A crowd is gathered outside, and some people are dressed as counterparts to characters on the screen. A noisy buzz rises as the crowd waits for the doors to open. A window in an apartment above opens, and the head a sleepy guy with tousled hair appears. “What’s happenin’?” he asks as he scans the line of otherworldly creatures. “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” is the simple reply. “Cool,” he says.
Creative: Book, music, lyrics – Richard O’Brien; director – John Mariano; music director – Courtney Sherman; choreographer – Denise Carlson-Gardner; scenic designer – Jeffrey Paul Entwistle; costume, hair, make-up designer – Kaoime E. Malloy; sound designer, technical director – Dinesh Yadav; lighting – Zak Viviano; Dinesh Yadav, Drew Arnold; properties designer, set dresser – Hayden Barlass; stage manager – Madison Sagen
Cast (in order of appearance):
Usherette – Chay Austyn Schmitt
Brad – Cory J. O’Donnell
Janet – Faith Klick
Narrator – Sean Stalvey
Riff Raff – Andi Koene
Magenta – Jasmine Christyne
Columbia – Aisa Micaiah Rogers
Dr. Frank N Furter – Alex Sabin
Rocky – Nick Meyers Olson
Eddie/Dr. Scott – Coleen Cline
Transylvanians – Andrea Cornett, Andy Delaurelle, Haley Ebinal, Savannah Rose Greiveldinger, Carly Jossart, Allie Lent, Aidan W. Lowery, Kora Reynolds, Iziah Schmidt, Annie Skorupa, Olivia Smith
Orchestra: Conductor – Courtney Sherman; music assistant – Aaron Frye; keyboard 1 – Emily Sculliuffo; keyboard 2 – Jeremy Raduenz; tenor saxophone – Carissa Salter; guitar – Jason Ocasio; bass – Jordan Jones; drums – Tony Fenner
Running time: One hour, 45 minutes
Remaining performances: 7:30 and 11 p.m. Nov. 22; 7:30 p.m. Nov. 23
Overture – Orchestra
“Science Fiction Double Feature” – Usherette
“Damn It Janet” – Brad and Janet
“Over at the Frankenstein Place” – Janet, Brad, Riff Raff
“The Time Warp” – Magenta, Columbia, Riff-Raff, Narrator, ensemble
“Sweet Transvestite” – Frank N Furter, Company
“The Sword of Damocles” – Rocky
“I Can Make You a Man” – Frank N Furter
“Hot Patootie” – Eddie
“I Can Make You a Man” (Reprise) – Frank N Furter
Entre’acte – Orchestra
“Touch-A Touch-A Touch Me – Janet
“Once in a While” – Brad
“Eddie’s Teddy” – Dr. Scott, Columbia, Company
“Planet Schmanet – Wise Up Janet Weiss” – Frank N Furter
“Floor Show”/“Rose Tint My World” – Company
“I’m Going Home” – Frank N Furter
“Superheroes” – Company
“Science Fiction Double Feature” (Reprise) – Usherette
“Sweet Transvestite” (Reprise) – Company
“Time Warp” (Reprise) – Company
NEXT: “This Random World” by Stephen Dietz, Feb. 27-29, March 4-7.
THE VENUE: Of 1970s vintage, the 450-seat University Theatre is a complex facility inside Theatre Hall at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. The theater features a proscenium (flat front) stage that’s 50 feet across and 23 feet high. The seats are a calm shade of red fabric, black plastic backs and light brown arms. The concrete walls gray and slightly angled. The ceiling is a semi-dark green/blue for the coverings ventilating/electrical equipment. Concrete dominates the room – the floor, the walls, the stairs. Aisle carpeting is a flecked gray. The seating area in front of the stage is adjustable to accommodate an orchestra pit when needed. The theater includes two seating areas – a lower one 20 or so feet deep on a slight incline that reaches a poured concrete wall and the upper one above that “moat” that rises sharply and creates an amphitheater effect. The theater may be entered from the lower or upper level.