Monday, October 27, 2014

The Rocky Horror Show—Live On Stage—Downtown Portland

Sci-Fi for the Discerning Eye

This infamous musical is written by Richard O’Brien, directed by John Oules (Live’s…Artistic Director), musical direction by Darcy White and choreography by Kemba Shannon.  It is playing at the World Trade Center at 121 SW Salmon St.  For more information, go to their site at www.liveonstage.us or call 503-875-1149.

The film is a great cult favorite still of many fans.  And it was pretty much a one-trick pony for the writer.  He actually did a little-know sequel called, Shock Treatment, which flopped, so this was his crowning glory.  It’s not unusual for a star to burn brightly for only one moment then ne’er be seen again.  Look at Margaret Mitchell and her Gone With The Wind or Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird.  Only one great contribution to the Arts, then the rest is silence.

The movie is hard to beat but, to be honest, it is also a different medium.  There is still nothing like seeing shows Live On Stage, knowing that you are witnessing a performance that will never be done again the way you are seeing it at that time.  And they do a rip-roaring, down-and-dirty, bang-up job of it, too!  Oules was also involved with Pixie Dust’s outstanding last two musicals and it shows clearly that he is no one-hit wonder.

The story is a wonderful homage to the 30’s & 40’s Sci-Fi/Horror flicks from Universal of the mad doctor and his minions and of the 50’s B, B&W movies of aliens invading earth and of Corman’s 60’s, low-budget flicks of mayhem and murder.  (I happen to be a great fan of these genres.)  And the setting is just like those old films:  a creepy, old house in a desolate place on a stormy, dark night.  And it even has a voice-over introduction, like many of those classics, from a Narrator (Gary Norman).

It seems that a young, naïve couple, Brad (Matt Brown) and Janet (Leah Seligman) are to meet a scientist friend of their, Dr. Scott (Darren Hurley), when their car breaks down in the forest.  Finding shelter in a dilapidated mansion, they are wary of the odd butler that greets them, Riff Raff (Eric Little) and his two main minions, Magenta (Claire Rigsby) and Columbia (Lindsay Schramm).

But the real host of the evening’s entertainment is a Dr. Frank N. Furter (Nartan Woods), a medical man with simple desires…to create a perfect man, Rocky (Gabriel Mikalson)…for himself.  But his true colors come out when he has to “sever” his relationships with an ole, rock-and-roll mate, Eddie (again, Hurley).  And then he tries seducing…well, just about everyone…and then, they in turn…well, you’ll just have to see it and figure it out for yourself.  In the end, it is a journey about self, your mates and the world(s) around you.

The success of this production is that they don’t try to imitate the exceptional movie but, instead, go in the other direction and keep it simple.  Most of the setting (Daniel Meeker) is a bare stage with some props added as necessary.  The lighting (Mark LaPierre) creates most of the changes of mood and places and is extremely well done.  And the costumes (Darrin J. Pufall) and make-up (Caitlin Fisher-Draeger, co-founder of Anon It Moves) are exceptional and add greatly to the success of the production.

And Oules direction is first-rate.  He wisely allows his actors to create the show and gives them as much space as possible to play in.  And his casting is spot on.  They all have outstanding voices and fit the parts perfectly.  Shannon’s dance and movements add greatly to the flow of the show and White leads her band of renown to success, never overpowering the actors.

Although Tim Curry can claim the film role of Frank N. Furter for his own, Woods does an exemplar job of wowing us with his luscious portrayal.  As one staff member put it, someone who has sex-appeal to both men and women.  And both Seligman and Brown fit their roles to a T.  They both have pretty extraordinary voices, too.  And Little is a gem in anything he does.  His oily butler is a stand-out.

The musical numbers are important to the story line of the plot.  My favorites were “The Time Warp”, “Hot Patootie,” “I Can Make You a Man,” “Touch-A…,” “Once in a While,” and “I’m Going Home.”  All well delivered by the company.

And, once again, to prove that there are no small parts…Schramm is a knock-out as Columbia.  She is not only high on my WOW! Scale, as far as sexy and alluring in her part, but she is a stand-out in the dance and chorus numbers, too.  She is totally focused on her role.  A star in the making who I expect to see more of onstage in future shows!

I recommend this show but it is obviously not for kids.  If you do see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.