REVIEW: The Rocky Horror Show Live!

11811315_10153228693627909_6905618370178635923_nIt would be easy to point to the technical difficulties in a show plagued by them and blame its quality on the wrong things.  Opening night of ROCKY HORROR was plagued with them – from poor sound execution and lots of audio feedback to unsteady prop pieces and rolling carts that didn’t quite fit through their pre-determined paths among others.  But it would be a mistake to focus on these issues instead of the show’s deeper problems.

Showbiz Players is a community theatre, but it is one that plays in a professional space with more resources than most of its kind.  If you’ve read this blog for very long you know that I really try to focus on positives and I never intend to hurt anyone’s feelings.

But this year I’ve also decided to be a tad more critical.  After all, you – the reader – have lots of choices on what shows to spend your money and you want to make the best and most informed choices.  Please remember that what I write is simply my opinion.  I truly want every theatre in town to sell every seat every night because I know how much work and passion people pour into their art.  Plus I genuinely love theatre – I don’t profit from this site in anyway other than the complimentary tickets I’m given.  So, please read this entire site in the spirit with which is intended.

This production suffers from a multitude of issues.  The biggest and most glaring is the choice to focus on style over substance.  There are more lighting cues and effects in this show than all in four shows I saw last week combined.  The costumes look as if they are on loan from Lady Gaga’s x-rated thrift shop.  The sexual humor is way over the top – there’s even a glowing dildo.  Yet the acting is often wooden, immature, and sometimes inaudible.  Sour notes, confusing choreography, and a lack of consistency in the storytelling cripple the show.

Perhaps most problematic is the overall tone.  When I think of ROCKY HORROR, I think pure camp.  In no way does not require ironic self-referential humor to be entertaining.  The “witty,” sarcastic asides in this particular production feel out-of-place, especially when they come from Dr. Frank-n-furter.

Frank, played by the very talented Brett Gregory Parr, is one of the bright spots.  But the role, if no one else in the show, plays better when sincere and completely in character.  There are times when you hear Parr speaking instead of Frank – on purpose – and I just don’t get it.  If I wanted snark, I’d go to an actual drag show.

He sings marvelously, though, and despite being forced to clump around in oversized heels, he carries the musical numbers well.  I would have liked to have seen him go bigger and campier in his performance.

Also good is the acting of Kati Bakes as “Janet.”  She is natural and even when playing off of awkward line delivery by her co-stars, she has a professional air about her.  Emily Rowekamp also keeps things grounded as “Magenta” and Amy Grace Curtis does what she can with the role of “Narrator.”  Laura Wacksman (“Columbia”) has a nice comedic scene, as well.  Musical director Alan Masters leads a great sounding band and Erin McCamley’s vocal direction is evident in tight harmonies and a handful of excellent solos.

But ROCKY HORROR is an example of what happens when the vision for a show is less about entertaining an audience and more about entertaining the people creating it.

People were up and down all throughout the show; either they’re not regular theatre-goers with no understanding of basic etiquette or they had too many “Dammit Janets” (the specialty drink at the bar) beforehand.   There were also some awkward moments before the show when cast members sat in sold seats and had to be asked to get up by patrons so they could sit down.  I love atmosphere work as much as anyone but this was uncomfortable.

However the opening night crowd applauded and cheered and gave (the now requisite) standing ovation at its conclusion.  They genuinely seemed to enjoy themselves. . . so . . . what do I know?

Showbiz Player’s ROCKY HORROR SHOW LIVE! runs through September 27th.  Tickets are available here.  Be advised that audience participation only occurs at two select performances – so leave your props at home.

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