“Don’t dream it, be it!” Iron Crow Theatre brings back their annual fundraising production of The Rocky Horror Show with music and lyrics by Richard O’ Brien, directed by Sean Elias, to benefit Baltimore’s Moveable Feast and the Iron Crow Theatre Sustainability Fund.
When you step into the house at Iron Crow, you’re immediately greeted by Frank ‘N’ Furter’s usherettes. The atmosphere is chaotic, but fun, as they try to encourage those new to Rocky Horror to lose their “V” card. Those of us who are familiar with the production, either through a staged version or one featuring a shadow cast, know what awaits the newcomers. Everyone in the audience is given bags of props a call out sheet. Rocky Horror is intended to be an interactive experience and there were, of course, updated call-outs–specifically calling out our Commander-in-Chief.
The orchestra strikes up those first few bars of “Science Fiction/Double Feature” and it’s hard not to find yourself singing along, especially if you partook in one of their themed beverages beforehand. (I may have had a few sips of “Frank’s Tits.”) Danielle Harrow, who is in the group of usherettes during this number and is also playing Magenta, brings your attention to the stage with her lovely and commanding voice.
Brad, played by Nick Fruit, and Janet, played by Allison Bradbury, burst out of the swinging doors at center stage in the early proposal number, “Dammit Janet.” They are both charming and convincingly innocent throughout the proceedings. Nicholas Miles is Frank ‘N’ Furter. His performance is incredibly satisfying and delivered with an edge of tartness that was refreshing. It was a nice change of pace to see a man of color step into this role. Terrance Fleming, as the titular Rocky, exudes energy as he shows off his glitter-covered, muscular body to Frank and the audience.
Nancy Linden, Caitlin Weaver, Christian Gonzalez, and Meghan Taylor round out the production as the Narrator, Columbia, Riff Raff, and Eddie/Dr. Scott, respectively. Each brings their own unique flavor to the show. The overall cohesion of this diverse cast is to be commended. The phantoms and usherettes were so skilled in keeping the audience engaged that it was impossible to tell when they were improvising and when they were acting from a script.
“The Time Warp” is alive and well here. Set Designer Chris Miller gives us an appropriately sparse design that accommodates the extreme amount of movement taking place in many of the numbers on the small stage. The costume design, with all its attendant fishnets and frilly underthings, is simply but effectively executed by the same Danielle Harrow who plays Magenta. It was particularly fascinating to see what Frank ‘N’ Furter, always a diva, would step out in next.
It’s hard to choose a favorite number from this musical, but the culmination of the “plot” in “Floorshow/Rose Tint My World” brought the appropriate level of enjoyment, flash, and nostalgia. The scenes leading up to “Touch-a Touch-a Touch Me” were particularly strong comedic moments for this cast and you can’t help but get emotional during Frank’s “I’m Going Home.” Despite some mic challenges, Nick Miller did not disappoint.
The best thing about this musical–and I think Iron Crow really nailed this–is that it isn’t a staggering work of artistic genius, but it is a musical that has a lot of resonance for those of us who are a part of the LGBTQ community. I can say, with the utmost love and as a Certified Queer, that this is the gayest production of Rocky Horror I have ever seen. That’s quite an accomplishment. Watching Iron Crow’s Rocky Horror felt more like sitting at the bar and drinking with friends. It reminded me very much of being at the favorite haunt of my youth (that would be Mable Peabody’s Beauty Parlor and Chainsaw Repair in Denton, Texas, thank you very much- which has sadly gone to that big gay bar graveyard in the sky.)
Unless you hate fun and joy, you should give this Rocky a try. It’s a great experience for newcomers and old timers alike. During times like these when so many of our communities are under attack, the most radical thing you can do is to be yourself–unapologetically. It is in this spirit of sticking it to the man that Iron Crow is delivering and helping to preserve one of our most cherished queer traditions with a Rocky Horror that leaves us with one directive: “Don’t dream it, be it.”
Running Time: 2 hours and 15 minutes with one intermission.