“Rocky Horror” rides into Richmond for Halloween

Photo courtesy of VCU Theatre Department
Photo courtesy of VCU Theatre Department
Photo courtesy of VCU Theatre Department
Photo courtesy of VCU Theatre Department

TheatreVCU sold out their opening night of “The Rocky Horror Show” at the W.E. Singleton Center the night before Halloween.

The show opened Friday, Oct. 30, and a miidnight showing was be held on Halloween. Then, on Friday the 13th, they will be having a costume party prior to the show with contests and cast member interaction.

But for those who plan on coming to see “The Rocky Horror Show” and have no idea what to expect, Rebecca Frost Mayer, a third-year MFA candidate in Performance Pedagogy and the director of VCU’s production of the show, encourages the audience to be open-minded and to expect involvement.

“They can get ready for a live, interactive party atmosphere,” Mayer said. “Lots of fun costumes, actors interacting with them in the aisles, a chance to dance (and sing) along with the actors and just the chance to take it all in.”

Originally written for the stage in 1973 by Richard O’Brien and later adapted into a film, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” tells the story of a young engaged couple from Denton, Texas named Ralph Hapschatt and Janet Weiss.

On their way to visit their old science teacher, the couple’s car breaks down in a rainstorm. The two walk to a nearby house in hopes of using the phone to call for assistance, but instead are flung headfirst into the world of Frank-N-Furter, a transvestite scientist who has created the human phenomenon that is Rocky Horror.

What ensues is a tale filled with rock and roll, sexual freedom and nods to science fiction and old Hollywood B-horror flicks.

Mayer said VCU’s production of the show has been in the works for more than a year and she was offered the directing position last spring. Mayer said the cast members’ previous experience with “Rocky Horror” varied widely as they began the production of the show.

“A few of our actors had never seen the film or attended it live,” she said. “Our (actor playing) Frank-N-Furter did a tour of “Rocky Horror” in Europe, and he’s done an American tour as well. So we have a large amount of experience down to zero experience.”

The department sometimes casts actors outside of the department when they feel their resident student body doesn’t have the required talents or appearances to fill a particular role.

Although the show was well received during its initial London debut, it took a while for the same enthusiasm to catch on in America. Even after the production made its transition to film in 1975 as “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” Mayer said it still was not the cult classic it’s known as today.

“It didn’t do so well . . . at first,” Mayer said. “But when they started showing it at midnight and people started taking it upon themselves to wear costumes and shout things at the screen, that’s how it became a classic.”

With the combination of its rock and roll music score and the heavy elements of science fiction and cheesy horror, one might find it puzzling how a musical such as “The Rocky Horror Show” works the way it does, but Mayer believes the show also pushes the boundaries of culture by addressing issues such as perceptions of human sexuality and crossdressing.

“It is a chance for people to be entertained by things that are societal taboos,” she said. “The Rocky Horror Show and “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” have often been associated with fringes of culture and people that may not feel like they have somewhere they fit in the world.”

This association allows for those who identify with the characters and situations in “The Rocky Horror Show” to feel a sense of solidarity.

While challenges are inevitable in staging any theater production, Mayer said one of the biggest challenges has been trying to maintain a healthy balance between what people expect from the stage production and the film adaptation of “Rocky Horror.”

“The stage script is a little different from the movie script,” she said. “There’s different music, there’s different dialogue. The biggest challenge is how do we honor the movie and its traditions and honor the playwright’s original intent . . . and weave all that together.”

In addition, Mayer said there will be a few additions that are exclusive to VCU’s production.

“We’ve made some choices that I believe have never happened in a production of ‘Rocky Horror’ before,” she said.

Tickets for the show can be purchased online at vcutheatre.showclix.com or by contacting the Theatre VCU Box Office at (804)-828-6026.

 

Article by: Andrew Seymour, Contributing Writer

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