When the pre-show features an audience participation orgasm contest, can things possibly get any wilder? Yes indeed, as Iron Crow Theatre’s Rocky Horror Show readily proves.
Rocky has always been an audience participation phenomenon, and Iron Crow helpfully supplied the raucously enthusiastic audience with a script for the traditional call-outs and goodie bag of props — newspaper, squirt gun, streamers, party poppers (no, not that kind), bubbles, tinsel – for use during the proceedings.
There’s a lot to be raucous about. “The Time Warp,” vivaciously choreographed by Quae Simpson, has never been so warped. The costumes have never been sexier than in April Forrer’s varied and colorful design: there are Dr. Frank-N-Furter’s myriad looks, (starting with an all-white ensemble and going on from there), Janet’s silky slip, the narrator’s flowing robe, the ensemble’s tight black leather/latex outfits, the purple and gold uniforms worn by Magenta and Riff-Raff when they take control, high heels of various shades, multiple boas, etc. Visual yumminess abounds (the cast themselves, not just the costumes).
Adding to the visual feast, Theodore Parker’s lighting design is complex and specific, using changing colors and accurate, rapid cueing to set the scene. There’s a wonderful moment when, as Dr. Frank-N-Furter starts his famous “Antici-” line, the stage turns red, then blacks out, before lighting up again in time for “pation.”
Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Nicholas Miles) is not Tim Curry’s sweet transvestite. Towering over most of the cast, his combination of drag queen bitchiness, powerful and often soulful singing, and sexual voracity dominates the stage as the good doctor should. “I Can Make You a Man” and “I’m Going Home” were especially strong numbers for him.
The voices in the cast are uniformly strong. Magenta (Danielle Harrow), readily identifiable by her purple hair, belts like nobody’s business; her character is not to be messed with. Janet (Ambrosia Cherie) puts her high soprano to fine use throughout, combining it with her character’s own burgeoning sexual appetite in “Touch-A-Touch-A-Touch-Me,” as she is carried about by Rocky. Her boyfriend Brad (Connor O’May), nerdy even during prolonged sex, has fine vocal moments too, as in “Dammit Janet” and the plaintive “Once in a While.” “Hot Patootie,” the score’s purest tribute to ’50s rock, is always a highlight number, and Alexandra Hemphill nails it.
Richard O’Brien, who wrote the show, also played Riff-Raff in the original 1973 cast and the classic 1975 movie. Noticeably less bizarre than O’Brien to look at, Christian Gonzalez approaches Riff-Raff in a similar way, to good effect. He’s especially sinister as he scents power and executes his second act coup. Nancy Linden is a suave, imperturbably academic, narrator. Rocky (Brandon Shaw McKnight), Frank’s sex toy creation, is smoothly muscular in his trademark shiny gold briefs, displaying fluidly sexy moves along with a somewhat deer-in-the-headlights affect.
A quintet of female characters start the show off right with O’Brien’s tribute to 1950s-era science fiction movies, “Science Fiction Double Feature.” Rocky is a fabulous ensemble show generally, and Iron Crow’s crew of usherettes and phantoms, paragons of unflagging energy, create individual characters as they sing and move through the show’s well-designed numbers. Alert to audience reactions and call-outs, the cast responds while seldom losing a beat in their timing. The company is able to foster a real sense of community with the audience, creating a joyfully queer emotional space for the evening.
Sean Elias’ skilled direction amps up the sexuality always present in the show, one example being the extended, if rather stylized, ecstasy among Dr. Frank-N-Furter, Janet, and Brad in the second act. Intimacy consultant Chelsea Pace seems to have had a busy rehearsal process, given the prominence of, well, intimacy in the staging.
PJ Carbonell’s set is functional: a symmetrical series of stepwise platforms with sliding doors on each side and the top for entrances. Music director Dr. Jay Walton’s band is tucked under the top platform. The band supports the singers with verve and expert playing. There are times when the sound system – an odd feature is speakers at the back of the house – permits actors’ words to become a bit muddled.
Rocky has become an annual holiday tradition for Iron Crow, this production being a fundraiser for Moveable Feast, a Baltimore charity. In keeping with the seasonal theme, there are holiday time touches throughout the show, particularly in the costuming. Brad’s ugly Christmas T-shirt, Janet’s menorah headband, and Frank’s metallic red and green skirt stand out.
It’s hard to imagine a more thoroughly enjoyable theatrical experience, pure fun embracing differences and celebrating sexuality. While the Iron Crow production was initially packed into five performances in one weekend from December 14-16, by popular demand it has been extended for two more performances on December 21 and 22. Get your tickets now! (And if you aren’t able to, make a note on your 2019 calendar to get tickets for next year’s version). Don’t dream it, see it.
Running Time: Two hours and 20 minutes, with one intermission.
Stage Manager, River Hansen; Assistant Stage Manager, Nicholle D’Anna; Lighting Technician, Justin Webb; Sound Design, Sam Lee.