Cult classic The Rocky Horror Show is just so Seventies. It must have seemed fiendishly outrageous when it came out in London in 1973 (the movie version, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, was released in 1975)--so new, so outlaw, so wild. Well, it's still wild, but it now seems kind of dated as well. Even the fabulous cast, dynamic choreography and high-decibel music in the Denver Civic Theatre's raucous regional premiere aren't enough to make you want to do the "Time Warp" again.
The story, so familiar to midnight-movie patrons, opens with Brad proposing to Janet. Next we find Brad (played with lackluster nerdiness by Scott Spalding) and his extra-innocent fiancee forced to seek shelter one rainy night when they spring a flat on a backroad to nowhere. The door they knock on hides a castle of terrors, and inside lurk all manner of nasty sci-fi-horror-fantasy characters, not to mention the real driving force behind most old monster movies: the beast within.
The savage beast is the sexual impulse--the untamed things people are capable of in the dark. And the Frankenstein (or, in this case, Frank N. Furter) who unleashes the beast while patching together a creature from used body parts, is an illegal alien from the planet Transsexual. Frank leads Brad and Janet down the primrose path to leather and lust while his riotous assortment of servants cheers them on. Janet even falls for the Creature (played with sweet ingenuousness by the Adonis-formed and golden-voiced T. Mark Kraft), while Brad makes eyes at Dr. Frank.
But nothing is stable in this volatile environment--and Frank wants the Creature for himself. Frank's old girlfriend, Columbia (another charmed performance from Liz Cox), wants Frank for herself. Meanwhile, Dr. Everett Scott, Brad and Janet's former high school science teacher and Frank's rival, shows up to unmask the villain. When Riff-Raff and Magenta, Frank's principal servants, don alien suits and shoot up the place with ray guns before transporting the whole castle back to its original planet, the spoof is complete.
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The Denver Civic production has a contagious energy and some over-the-top performances. Director/choreographer Michael Gorman also stars as Frank, rendering maniacal transvestite camp in high style. Melinda Wilson has a terrific voice and invests Janet with believable innocence at first--and embarrassing raunchiness at last. But the best combination in the whole show is Beth Flynn as Magenta and Jeff Roark as Riff-Raff.
Flynn is an unself-conscious comic presence. She just has to stand there to be funny. When she opens the show singing "Science Fiction," you know you're in for some wry good spirits--even camped up, she projects innocence. Roark complements Flynn with his own ingenious mannerisms and solid comic take on his character; as extreme as he is, he's never dour.
Rocky Horror was originally designed as a parody of Hollywood B-flicks. But spoofs of old movies tend to be shallow, anyway (see Ruthless! The Musical below), and parody is much more effective when it takes up real life and real social issues. Even Mystery Science Theater 3000 runs out of steam after a while--and in that classic cable romp, you at least have the advantage of watching the original material as the guys are ridiculing it.
The Seventies rock in Rocky is vigorous, the performances slick and edgy and the dancing clever. Some of the teenagers in the audience even come properly attired, sporting black lipstick and world-weary expressions. Viewed from the perspective of the Nineties, however, it's just not that interesting anymore. The whole show is a kind of adolescent fantasy of naughtiness and rebellion. But though the innocent may succumb to darkness, the bad guys get it in the end--just like in the movies.