The Rocky Horror Show, at Neptune Theatre to June 26, is a fast, fun and fabulous toe-tapping, Transylvannian trip back in time to the wacky, black-leather world of trans-sexual, mad scientist Frank ‘N’ Furter and his lascivious minions.
While Rocky Horror was first a musical comedy in 1973 and a movie in 1975, it is hardly an old chestnut. This campy, sci-fi, cult classic shimmers and shimmies with still-current politics of gender fluidity and sexual daring.
It is as far from stale as the toast people traditionally throw during midnight screenings. (Neptune has a list of interactive dos and don’ts but encourages costumes and interaction.)
The energy on stage is pure magic and Allister (Allie) MacDonald’s Frank ‘N’ Furter is worth the price of admission. Winner of the 2022 Merritt Award for The Mad Hatter in Alice in Pantoland, MacDonald is a show-stopper with a wonderful voice that can dive down to those bass notes.
Part petulant child, part evil master, this Frank ‘N’ Furter nevertheless has a tragic kernel not present in Tim Curry’s movie portrayal. MacDonald channeled old-time movie stars like Joan Crawford who is visible in Frank ‘N’ Furter’s smile and bared teeth.
Director Jeremy Webb – Neptune Theatre’s artistic director – remains true to the show’s sexiness and sci-fi and B-movie roots but his excellent, hard-working, ensemble projects a warmth, a love of theatre and a sense of fun. The characters are not cartoons.
The Rocky Horror show is about the innocent young couple Brad and Janet, newly engaged, whose car breaks down one stormy night and they end up at Frank ‘N’ Furter’s castle on the very night he is to unwrap his muscled, sex-toy monster.
Webb casts against homogenity which works well for Rocky Horror; African-Canadian actor Davis Okey-Azunnah is an adorable Rocky, the confused, muscle-man.
Whereas Susan Sarandon’s Janet in the movie was lithe and blonde, Saphire Demitro’s Janet is a brunette with a normal body type and a powerful, passionate singing voice. Her Janet is full of the required propriety but also quite funny. Zach Faye is perfect as Brad in look and character and puts a lot of soul into the songs.
Breton Lalama’s Riff Raff is a welcome twist with a sometimes nasally voice and an intensity that is fierce and fun.
Also in the cast are: Troy Adams as the narrator, Kaleigh Gorka as Columbia, Michelle Langille as Magenta and the Usherette, who beautifully introduces the show singing Science Fiction/Double Feature, and Ryan Brown as Eddie and Dr. Scott. David Light and Natasha Strilchuk (who was in Calendar Girls and Mamma Mia) put their all into both expression and movement as the Phantoms.
The design is true to expectations from the movie as are the punk, S & M style costumes with the pre-requisite corset and chunky pearls for Frank ‘N’ Furter, designed by Helena Marriott.
Designer Andrew Cull’s set is more sci-fi than haunted mansion though that’s present as well. He built walls of reflective black half-globes he found tossed out by the Liquor Dome which suits the debauched nature of this show.
Leigh Ann Vardy’s lighting design is a complex enchantment in rock ‘n roll concert colours versus cooler blues and whites. Needless to say a show like Rocky Horror lives or dies on its musical direction and it’s strong here.
The vast creative team includes musical director Avery Jean Brennan, choreographer Jeff Dimitriou, set designer Andrew Cull, projection and sound designer Aaron Collier, assistant director Katie Clarke (Chrysalis Project), assistant musical director Nic Murray (Chrysalis Project), assistant to choreographer Tracy Fannous, intimacy director Samantha Wilson, assistant video designer Matt Downey, assistant lighting designer Xinyi (Frisia) Li (Chrysalis Project), assistant sound designer Lou Campbell (Chrysalis Project). Musicians Sarah Richardson (keyboard), Chris Churchill (bass) Jason Vautour (guitar) and Alex Wrathall (percussion). Stage management team includes Alison Crosby and assistant stage managers Anna Spencer and Stephanie Kincade.
Neptune Theatre had to close four times during the pandemic; it has roared back to life and it’s time to go back to the theatre. This show will make you feel alive again after a long, pandemic winter.
The Rocky Horror Show, with book, music and lyrics by Richard O’Brien, runs to June 26, Tuesdays to Sundays. Midnight shows are Friday May 27, @ 11:59 p.m., and Friday June 10 @ 11:59 p.m.
Late Night Shows are: May 22nd @ 9:30 p.m. The show is two hours and 15 minutes including intermission; it races by and it’s sad when it ends. All shows require masks; Sunday shows require proof of vaccination. Recommended for mature audiences; teens could handle it and likely love it depending on their level of exposure to sexuality in film and TV (and Shakespeare).