An abundance of stockings and sparkles floods the theater as the audience fills the seats. Singing snacks dance across a screen in-between film previews from decades ago, and the air buzzes with the energy of a crowd anticipating a night of theatrical hijinks.
Richard O’Brien’s cult classic musical, “The Rocky Horror Show,” was performed in the Redfern Arts Center Main Theater Nov. 16 – 19, with a special midnight performance Nov. 19.
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It is the story of newly engaged couple Brad Majors and Janet Weis on their way to visit an old science teacher to announce their engagement.
A flat tire brings about a night they would never forget in the forms of a crazy scientist, aptly named Dr. Frank N. Furter, his servants, and his newest creation. The experience brings the two out of their shells into a world of sex and rock ‘n’ roll of which their conservative lives outside Frank’s castle had previously deprived them.
They delve deeply into an underworld of wickedness at the hands of Frank and the castle’s other inhabitants, a world which promises to break any and all reservations they had before coming.
Much of the audience filed in for the Nov. 19 midnight performance in black stockings, heels, and short-shorts, playing upon the sexuality of the show itself.
Some wore wigs, tutus, or corsets. Others simply dressed in layers against the cold November night.
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After a quick bag check in the lobby, attendees had the option of getting a participation kit for a $3 suggested donation.
The kit included a newspaper, glow stick, party hat, confetti, toilet paper, playing cards, and a “How to Time Warp” flier; it was a night of encouraged chaos.
Audience members were guided toward open seats by zombies holding their hands, and usherettes walked throughout the crowd making small-talk with those in attendance, as well as the mostly wordless zombies.
In a show like Rocky Horror, so lacking in clothing and rich in sexuality throughout most of its runtime, one can’t help but wonder how the cast could make it through not one but four nights of performance without feeling uncomfortable, vulnerable, or just plain embarrassed.
“There’s definitely a moment in the beginning when you realize, this is going to happen,” Aaron Howland, who played Brad, said.
And happen it did, as many members of the cast had costumes that ranged from elaborate corsets and fishnets to simple undergarments, each baring a fair amount of skin.
Frank, for instance, played by Tyler Gammans, spent the majority of the show, save for a bit of time covered by his lab coat, in just black fishnet stockings, large red heels, and a red and black corset.
In the floorshow of Act II, much of the cast mirrored Frank’s outfit in all black.
There were also many hands-on scenes, involving a variety of cast members groping each other.
“You need to get comfortable with yourself to be comfortable with everybody else,” Ryan Demers, who played the creation Rocky, said. “The audience is as big as the cast. It’s really one big family.”
The audience was indeed as big. One attending the midnight showing on Nov. 19 would have noticed a wild crowd unafraid of shouting right back as the actors danced and sang across the stage.
They joined in with a chorus of raunchy, rude shouts during the show in the traditional callbacks of the performance.
From the reminder that “castles don’t have phones” to the refrain of “slut” and “asshole” in references to the distressed couple, it became necessary for an audience member to know the show well or else miss out on a great portion of the dialogue drowned out by the audience itself, let alone those in the show.
“It’s definitely difficult to stay as focused,” Howland said. “But the familiarity of the show helped.”
“At first it’s like this big culture shock,” Kristine Sullivan, who played Janet, said.
“But then you create this wall and just focus on each other. You lock eyes and know, ‘We can do this.’”
Despite the concentration and focus factor of the actors, there were some mistakes to be seen throughout the night’s performance.
“There are noticeable mess-ups, but at that point who cares what happened? It’s a matter of letting go,” Dan Kuhn, who played dual roles as both Dr. Everett Scott and the ill-fated Eddie, said.
Indeed, although there were a few flubbed lines, the audience was far too engaged and energized to find fault with the performance.
The only shouts of distaste were traditional and for fun, with the crowd appearing overall excited about the night.
There were claps and cheers throughout, and a standing ovation for the entire cast at the end.
It was ultimately a night to remember.
“It was so much fun,” Sullivan said. “One of the best experiences. I’m so lucky to be involved.”
Sonya Cheney can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org