Every good homo knows the tragic cinematic tale of The Rocky Horror Picture show: Boy meets girl; girl meets tranny; tranny fucks both boy and girl. Even if you haven’t actually seen the film, there’s a sense of familiarity and old hat to the premise, so any attempt to recapture the movie’s oddball nostalgia would be self-indulgent.
CanStage and director Ted Dykstra firmly dispel such concerns with the irrepressible and utterly delicious mounting of Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show from 1973.
From the moment the audience enters the theatre, it’s abundantly clear that this show is intent on shaking the most staid of theatregoers out of their Toronto reserve. Punk-rock bellhops playfully taunt and flirt with the crowd and each other – there’s no telling when some glamourous young thing is going to plunk him or herself down next to you, lick your ear and then flit off before your significant other has a chance to wind up for a really good bitchslap.
A commanding young woman (Alison SomerVille, who also plays manic maid Magenta) in bondage usherette gear opens the show with a prologue, her voice cutting through the eerie stillness as she reveals the backless (and assless) nature of her outfit in a seductive vamp.
Following are the hapless Brad and Janet, stumbling through a thunderstorm to find shelter after their car wonks out. Ron Pederson and Mairi Babb are perfect as the geeky twosome, and manage to make their insipid counterparts not only funny, but also surprisingly likable.
But it’s sexy, seedy Riff Raff (Steven Gallagher) who really kicks the show into high gear. His wonderfully reedy voice and frenetic dancing in the showstopping “Time Warp” has the audience rapturous, and sets a very high mark for the rest of the evening.
This could easily have been the show’s pinnacle moment, were it not for Adam Brazier’s jaw-dropping entrance as mad tranny scientist Frank ‘N’ Furter. He stalks the stage like a bald-headed lion, with frightening charisma and a magnificent singing voice.
Brazier manages to top Tim Curry with a note-perfect performance that is both lovable and genuinely menacing. Designer Erika Connor has draped the sweet transvestite in eye-popping costumes that would make Cher weep; one moment a PVC-corseted dominatrix draped in scarlet silks, the next a glamourous surgeon clad in bejeweled medical greens.
Dykstra’s direction keeps things moving at a breakneck pace, cleverly avoiding the stultifying lulls in its cinematic predecessor and keeping the physical comedy crackling. Deft handicap scooter choreography for crippled Dr Everett Scott (played brilliantly by Eddie Glenn) is inspired genius, and Dykstra piles gag upon gag in a florid manner perfectly suited to the material, giving each cast member a moment to shine.
Even the potentially thankless roles of squeaky-voiced maid Columbia (Christine Rossi) and rippling blond stud Rocky (Gerrad Everard) are given memorable treatment, with each actor displaying great comedic timing, along with lots of skin.
Featuring deft choreography by Jody Ripplinger and Michael Gianfrancesco’s whimsically creepy set, this Horror Show has given us an unapologetically camp feast for the eyes and ears, with every right to raves and raving.