‘The Rocky Horror Show’ succeeds, involves audiences

Jesse Lessner and the cast of “The Rocky Horror Show” spooked out Hewitt Union. David Armelino | The Oswegonian
Jesse Lessner and the cast of “The Rocky Horror Show” spooked out Hewitt Union. David Armelino | The Oswegonian

The gender-bending cult classic “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” came to life in Hewitt Union this Halloween. Fans of the movie will not be disappointed, as this stage adaption marvelously captures the sex, outrageousness and great rock-n-roll soundtrack that made up “The Rocky Horror Show.”

For anyone who is unfamiliar with “Rocky Horror,” it is a campy, musical send-up of B-movie sci-fi, intimately entwined with a cast of hyper-sexual aliens and a madly brilliant transvestite scientist. When innocent newlyweds Brad Majors, played by Antony Sagrestano and Janet Weiss, played by Megan VanVorce, wind up stranded in the rain outside of a strange castle, they enter a world of twisted pleasure inside, and soon find themselves helpless at the whims of the seductive Dr. Frank-N-Furter played by Josh Dobbin.

The show succeeded on a lot of levels. Its backbone, of course, was its musical numbers, and they were all on point. It was the way the actors moved, as much as the way they sang. Each number was a high-energy maelstrom that saw the ensemble weave up, down and around the tiered ramp stage, as well as a movable ladder.

The stage deserves mention for being minimalist enough to let the color and glamor of the ensemble demand attention and its ability to suggest new environments with only a subtle change of lights and background. On several numbers, “Charles Atlas” and “Touch a Touch Me” in particular, nimble pole dancing and other sexually suggestive acrobatics really started to steam up the place. This is an impressively  physical play.

Frank-N-Furter was captivating in all his hairy femininity and forceful, tender loving. Josh Dobbin brought a killer voice to the role, both in and out of song. Eddie played by Antonio Ortega, was a greaser-zombie beast, the titular Rocky played by Spencer Ventresca a strong yet infantile Adonis, and Magenta played by Amanda Joseph and Riff Raff, played by Jesse Lessner lurked with sinister intent. All the leads commanded the stage, while the ensemble played naughtily at the fringes. They were fun, sexy and chaotic.

A great aspect of the stage adaption was how it encouraged audience participation throughout. Popcorn bags that anyone could buy for $5 before the show, contained goodies to hurl at the stage and instructions on when to insult and interrupt the show. This is meant to recreate the experience of attending a “Rocky Horror” screening where everyone knows the movie and acts it out in front of the screen. The lines played off of this for humor, with intentionally long pauses where the audience could raggedly throw in mocking questions and responses around     the words.

The unseen, but integral part of the show was the live band behind the curtain. They made the dance numbers rock, as they ought to rock. The music popped in a way recorded soundtrack could not, and that energy was palpable to the audience.

“The Rocky Horror Show” will be reanimated for two more weekends, on November 7, 8, and 14-16. It’s a great time for old fans and new, so be sure come and see what’s on the slab.