Rocky Horror is Alive and Well with the Rebel Theatre Company

July 11, 2019

As a college student attending the cheap midnight weekend movies in 1982, I saw Rocky Horror Picture Show for the first time. The difference between this movie and the other midnight movies (think Attack of the Killer Tomatoes or Plan 9 From Outer Space) wasRocky Horror is Alive and Well with the Rebel Theatre Company that this one starred Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick and Meatloaf (look it up) and was produced by 20thCentury Fox. It was a parody of all of the truly bad horror, science fiction B movies of the 60s and 70s. There was one type of audience that absolutely loved it for its disrespect and challenge of convention and that audience was college students.


It is not surprising then that opening night of the Rebel Theatre Company’s production of Richard O’Brien’s “Rocky Horror Picture Show” at Saginaw Valley State University was such a fun evening. This show is not for the faint-hearted audience member nor actor. None of the roles nor songs are particularly easy to pull off and Director as well as Costume Designer Jennifer Lothian put together a cast that stepped up to the challenge. Although presented in a small black box theatre, set designer Mia Berlanga also used triptychs in a very creative and effective way to allow for more than minimalist set while not crowding the stage. 


Costumes, Hair and Make-up (Abby Burgess, Brittany LaCross) and Lighting (Jaden O’berry) were well done and fun. Rocky Horror demands the untraditional and all of these designers stepped up to the task. And no production of Rocky Horror should ever be done without a live rock band. This show enlists the talents of Lochaven, a band out of Clarkston, MI that was  Spencer Beyerlein as Brad and Erica Close as Janet were excellent as the straight-laced (at least at the beginning) and unsuspecting couple that brings us to the Frank. N. Furter castle. These two roles, along with Frank himself, can make or break this show and this casting was spot on. To make it entertaining without being uncomfortable requires finding a line that is crossed just far enough to shock the audience but not so far as to be distracting. These two commanded their roles throughout.


Lane Birchmeier’s Frank N’ Furter was also entertaining with the exception of a few energy lags along the way. Having said that, you try to be a guy on stage running around in stiletto heels for a couple of hours! The role of Riff Raff from Conner Weiland and his sidekick Magenta, played by Hannah Ducolon were both hilarious and consistent. Their timing was great.


There really is no possibility of mentioning everybody that is in this show but I do have to comment on Brady Katshor as Rocky. Rocky is usually played by some massive character to create a contrast between he and Brad. In this case, Katshor played a quite non-massive Rocky. It threw me at first but after awhile you begin to realize that he, and the show, embraced the irony so it added an additional humorous element to the comedy. 


Two critiques and both are related. Energy and pacing. This isn’t exactly a stand-and-sing-without-moving type of show, nor do we have to ponder what has just been said before the next line. Choreographer Jolee Billings also plays one of the phantoms and she was energetic in everything she did, but many of the other dancers, and even some of the leads, had a habit of letting the energy fade. It’s Rocky Horror for cryin out loud…just bring it! 


Related to that point is the audience. Bless their hearts, they tried. When you go see this show, and you really should go see this show, keep in mind that the audience participates by responding throughout the show. Back in the day, we knew the responses because we attended the show many times and learned them along the way. But even if you’re a Rocky Horror Show virgin, they even give you a list of what to yell and when. C’mon people! 


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.  


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