It would seem redundant to begin a review of the Rocky Horror Show, something we’ve probably all encountered in our lives countless times, with a synopsis, so I’ll be brief. Newly engaged Brad Majors (Spencer Beyerlein) and Janet Weiss (Erica Close) find themselves with a flat tire on the back roads of Ohio while on their way to visit an old teacher of theirs, Dr. Scott (Melanie Frasca). They decide to knock on the door of an old castle they passed by (in...Ohio?) and ask for help. Once there they encounter all kinds of weirdos, including the caretakers Riff Raff (Conner Wieland), Magenta (Hannah Ducolon), Columbia (Cailey Brown), the owner of the residence Dr. Frank N’ Furter (Lane Birchmeier) and his creatures both old (Eddie played by Rhiannon Hall) and new (the titular Rocky played by Brady Katshor).
As with many productions, the first instinct would be to copy the movie since it so successfully conveys all the wild and crazy events that take place. Thankfully, director Jennifer Lothian has assembled a cast and production team that have taken their own spin on this well worn story. The design elements were one of the first things that stuck out to me as being wholly original. Costume designs by Lothian stuck to a black and white color palette with only the occasional burst of color, complemented well by the lighting design by Jaden O’Berry, which used LOTS of color throughout as well as black light toward the end for a “Floor Show” routine that I was not expecting. Sound design can be tricky in a small black box space, but was handled well by Lucas Inman. The music would sometimes drown out the actors, particularly in solo numbers, but group numbers were mixed well, with the dynamics of the music still intact. In fact, special attention must be given to the music. A live band in such a small space would be almost impossible to mix well, so the music was prerecorded by the band Lochaven (Gabriel Toth, Jake Fultz, and PJ Twork). This gave the sound of the show a bit more of a rockier edge than usual, but allowed for more looseness than is usually capable with canned music.
Choreography by Jolee Billings utilized many cast members including the four Phantom ensemble members throughout the show, but became a bit repetitive during the longer numbers. This is typically a consequence of a small black box space, as some of the blocking became a bit stagnant during longer scenes with not many places for actors to go. Another difficult thing with a musical that is so well known is that sometimes performances can become more of an imitation than an original portrayal. Some of the characters fell into this at times throughout the show, but there were a lot of smaller character moments, particularly Beyerlein and Close’s background interactions and Wieland’s tendency to be staring strangely into the audience, that gave this production some freshness and something fun to notice while the story progressed.
Music direction by Frasca was strong with stand out performances from Frasca herself as well as Beyerlein, Close, and Ducolon (as both Magenta and the Usherette who opens and closes the show with “Science Fiction Double Feature”).
While not perceived as particularly groundbreaking anymore, this production proves that there are still a lot of fun things to mine from a well worn musical like Rocky Horror Show. Give yourself over to absolute pleasure and check it out. Even if you’ve seen it before, there are many new things to enjoy.
Tickets are free (with donations accepted) and can be reserved in advance online. Rocky Horror continues July 11, 12, and 14 at 7:30pm and July 13 at 10:00pm, theatre located in the Black Box Theatre (C-180) on the campus of Saginaw Valley State University. Be sure to arrive 30 minutes before curtain to secure your general admission seat.