Arts and Entertainment

‘Rocky Horror’ musical includes the audience in its wicked fun | Theater Review

Decades ago, the drummer in a band I sang with announced one night before the show that he needed to be wrapped up and out the door by 11:30. He wanted to make it to the Varsity Theater by midnight to see “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” It was very important, he said. It was to be his 100th time seeing it. 

Once I’d worked out the insanity of the monetary investment, I began pondering the equation of Mark and that show. He had clearly joined a cult.

“The Rocky Horror Picture Show” was the 1975 film adaptation of the British rock musical, “The Rocky Horror Show,” written by Richard O’Brien. In limited release to this day, it now owns the distinction of holding the longest theatrical run in film history, screened primarily as a midnight movie, with audiences dressing the parts and participating as a sort of off-screen Greek Chorus. Mark, the drummer — along, apparently, with more than a few present-day Vashon residents — worshipped at that altar.

In their new staging of the musical, Elizabeth Ripley and Drama Dock have transformed our friends and neighbors (and a few off-Island ringers) into those gender-twisting, high-camp, B-Movie characters. The Greek Chorus is present and accounted for. The show is a blast.

To get the full authentic effect, I took in the 10 p.m. performance (is that Vashon time for midnight?). The thoroughly primed crowd — a parade of bustiers, crinolines, fishnet stockings and wigs, wigs, wigs — exploded into song at the crook of the first seductive finger onstage. Singing along and dancing in the seats was de rigueur. Unbridled shoutouts — encouraged by The Narrator (Richard Montague) and gamely endured by the cast — weaved the audience seamlessly into the show. Veteran Rockyophiles came armed with ready barbs, some sharp enough to stop an actor in his tracks, though to no avail.

No shortage of talent or courage paraded across that stage. From the deliciously wicked Riff Raff (Stephen Floyd) to that glorious statue of guilty pleasure himself, Dr. Frank-N-Furter — one spicy hot dog in gravity-defying platform stilettos (played by Marshall Murray) — the production rewards the faithful with everything they could want in a past-bedtime frolic (or pre-bedtime, for those attending earlier stagings.)

Stephanie Murray delivers a take-no-prisoners Magenta, generously sharing her not inconsiderable set of lungs and strutting some divinely strategic cutouts along the way. Rocky (Ari Ashkenazi) deadpans his way through the proceedings, fleshy and awkward in all the right ways. Janet (Bryanna Savelsky) and Brad (Will Wassman) play the quintessential squares turned inside out. Jon Whalen, in the guises of both Eddie and Dr. Scott, is a scene-stealer extraordinaire. Lillian Ripley’s costumes gild the lily to flawless effect. The video and light show took me back to the psychedelic dance emporium of my youth. The band just plain rocked! 

There’s forbidden fruit at every turn. Arlette Moody’s choreography brought a blush to this schoolgirl’s cheeks more than once. The Narrator’s 15 seconds before the mast proves the director’s genius at pulling the dark side out of her players. This is not your everyday floor show. The silhouettes scene firmly plants the cherry on top of this “not for the kiddies” sundae (in case you were thinking your grade schooler might enjoy a night of dress-up).

Settling into a production of Rocky Horror is a let’s-do-the-time-warp-again pact with yourself. Why else would you leave the comfort of your Blue-Ray den and subject yourself to shameless double entendre and campy parodists in Baroque polyester and fishnets? This production makes you wistful for the days when the sight of a man in a bra was a cue to bring in the men in white coats, back when naughty fun was really worth something. These boys and girls give you that fun — in an old-fashioned, I’ll Go To Confession Tomorrow way. 

Dress up or come as you are, but don’t miss this production. We’re all lucky to have such a capable troupe on our little Island, game for such an outrageous romp. Memorize your lines, pull on a wig and go 100 times.

 

— Rebecca Wittman is a freelance writer living on Vashon.

“The Rocky Horror Show,” performed at Vashon High School’s theater, will have performances at 7:30 p.m. July 14, 15 and 17, and 10 p.m. July 16. Audience members are encouraged to come dressed as their favorite characters to the 10 p.m. performance. Tickets, $15 and $10, are on sale at Island book shops and at the door. 

 

 

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