It's always a good time for The Rocky Horror Picture Show, but something just feels right about seeing it in October. Maybe it's because of the fabulous costumes or the midnight horror movie vibe, but those are just excuses to enjoy one of the very best things ever created by humanity. Seriously: Pyramids, The Colosseum, and Rocky Horror. I'm calling it.
Now, you astute readers might have noticed that there was a Rocky Horror going on at 2nd Street awhile back, but that was a whole different ball of socks. What 2nd Street and Lonely Fish Productions were doing was a shadow performance, which is basically actors and actresses lip-synching, singing, and acting out the show while the movie plays in the background. Getting to watch the classic film while also seeing some of Central Oregon's best performers having a blast made those shadow shows more fun than humans should be able to handle.
This production is a full-blown, top-to-bottom production of the entire musical with no movie involved. Just excellent actors, a kick-ass band, and some good-old-fashioned singing and dancing. JoEllen Ussery, founder and chief instigator of Lurking Squirrel Productions, put this show on at the Tower back in 2004, so this is also a bit of a revival, with a good chunk of the cast stepping into their old platform shoes.
"I moved back to the North Bay Area directly after our 2004 production," Ussery recalls. "On a visit in the summer of 2013, during a dinner gathering with Michelle [Mejaski, choreographer and playing Columbia], Richard [Steffenson, playing Frank 'N' Furter], and a few others, the idea was brought up to do a revival. By fall of 2014 the idea starting taking shape. We thought we could do rehearsals partly by Skype. Long story shorter....Roy [Christenson, narrator and executive producer] and I decided to move here instead. We arrived this last June and hit the ground running."
Based on a recent rehearsal, "hitting the ground running" is an understatement. Richard Steffenson's Frank 'N' Furter is one-of-a-kind: A wholly original take on the character that reminded me why I liked his work so much in 2004. Jenni Peskin was born to play Magenta with the perfect hair and make-up, but also with the sly humor that no one ever gives that character credit for. Steven Livingston is one of the best Rockys I've ever seen, with a fine singing voice to match the Charles Atlas approved good looks. Kelly Guylene and Thor Erickson are perfect as Janet and Brad, finding that perfect balance of nebbish and hysterical, without ever overstepping. Also, Rick Johnson IS Riff Raff. His effortless swagger and wonderful chemistry with Peskin make it difficult to stop looking at them, regardless of what they're doing.
Everyone was giving it their all, from Mejaski's innovative choreography and excellent tap dancing, to the spooky phantoms led by the intense Stuart Poindexter, the absolutely-rocking band led by Val Billington, and the understated direction by Ussery.
"During our first cast meeting last fall, I explained I wanted a darker version than we did previously," Ussery explains. "Val, our music director, came up with the theme of 'Deeper, Darker, Harder.' It's also far sexier, which wasn't easy. It was pretty sexy before."
So, how did she do it?
"As a director working with several of the same actors, I was able to go much deeper into their characters with them" she says. "As the choreographer, Michelle was able to keep some of what we did last time but expanded immensely. This show has some wicked choreography."
It is a damned-sexy show with more grinding and gyrating than I've ever seen outside of late-night Showtime. So, in other words, it's fun for the whole family! As long as your family is into sweet transvestites, aliens, beautiful singing, swift and sexy dancing, stabbing, and a range of unconventional kinds of love.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show
8 pm, Friday, Oct. 30; 8 pm and midnight, Saturday, Oct. 31
The Tower Theatre, 835 NW Wall St.