“Damnit, Janet!” It’s amazing how 43 years changes perception. In 1973, the outlandish and shocking stage musical “The Rocky Horror Show” debuted. While transvestites and sexual experimentation existed, it took much less to surprise an audience in the early 1970s. The Theatre Under the Stars (TUTS) version of the risqué production manages to be just as relevant and entertaining, with a stellar cast, shimmering costumes and overwhelming happy mood.
In case you’ve somehow missed this cult classic, Brad (Scott Harrison) and Janet (Connor Lyon), a recently engaged innocent high school couple, drove into the country during a storm. They experience car trouble and are forced to ring the doorbell of a nearby castle, Frankenstein Place, to ask for assistance. The couple soon finds themselves in the midst of a weird party where a mad scientist and transvestite named Dr. Frank N. Furter (Pierre Alexandre) unveils his creation—a blonde-haired, tan man boy named Rocky. (Mason Butler)
According to Rocky Horror director Mitchell Greco, the TUTS production connects with audiences because it reaches ‘outcasts, weirdos and others,’ “The music (by Richard O’Brien) is absolutely stellar and the show is irresistibly fun,” he said. “I latch onto the feeling of ‘other’ and the community that “The Rocky Horror [Picture] Show” creates is super strong. If you’ve ever been to a midnight showing, anytime from the 70s to today, you know how big of an event they are. It’s a place for people to come together, be weird together, and have a blast. I think that’s a powerful pull.”
Houston’s crowd was an interesting mix of ages and races, dressed from casual jeans to glowing blow ties and French maid uniforms. True to tradition, the enthusiastic crowd participated in the interactive madness with newspapers, flashlights, rubber gloves, confetti, toilet paper and playing cards, all sold by TUTS as an audience interaction bag. A portion of the money from each prop bag sold goes to the TUTS Annual Fund, to support the company’s educational programs. It was definitely a calmer, drier Horror Show experience, but the TUTS one still ranks as fun.
“I feel like Rocky is one of the only universal things in the world,” said Grego. “I saw the midnight show in Portland, Oregon, and in Houston, and found them to be pretty similar. The callbacks and traditions varied slightly, but the kinds of people they attracted were exactly the same.”
Amidst the gold lame, tulle and Brad’s tighty whities, the squeaky clean couple joins the dark side as sexual liberation is fully celebrated in this campy production.
Alexandre adds his own spark, nodding to Tim Curry, the infamous transvestite who made loyal Horror Show fans, with a defined physique and never ending legs, a crazed look in his eyes and a booming, commanding voice. The Wonder Woman boot-wearing narrator Susan Koozin is a standout, even though she never sings or dances. (A male actor originally played this role.) Koozin’s deadpanned delivery reminds the audience to pay close attention and is a brilliant part of the show.
“Frankly, in a show where gender is somewhat fluid anyway, I never thought the narrator had to be female, there’s no textual evidence to support a gender either way,” said Greco. “I know Susan well, and thought she would be an outstanding and different choice for the Narrator. She blew me away during her audition and it was a no-brainer. We got permission from the licensing house, and never looked back.”
The music stayed in a state of other worldly happiness during the musical numbers, especially during the renowned Time Warp.
With a bit of a mind flip…
You’re into a time slip…
And nothing can ever be the same.
You’re spaced out on sensation.
Like you’re under sedation.
Let’s do the Time Warp again.
Let’s do the Time Warp again.
“At the curtain call, the Time Warp reprise at the end, is one of my favorite songs in the show,” said Greco. “They get some of the biggest reactions of the evening, and are cathartic for the audience. They’re stellar examples of how much this musical is built for the audience; it exists to thrill, entertain and engage.”
“The Rocky Horror Show” continues through November 20 at the Hobby Center, 800 Bagby. For tickets call 713-558-8887 or visit www.tuts.com. $43-$93.