Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Rocky Horror Show (The SOB Review)

The Rocky Horror Show (The SOB Review) - McKnight Theatre, Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, St. Paul, MN

*** (out of ****)

There's a light, over at the Frankenstein Place.

Well, actually it's a spotlight, and it's shining down brilliantly on St. Paul's Ordway Center for the Performing Arts through November 10 thanks to Jayme McDaniel's inspired revival of Richard O'Brien's The Rocky Horror Show.

Before I could even jump to the left, step the right or begin my pelvic thrusts -- all of which are gamely encouraged -- I entered a theatre armed with a converted popcorn box serving as a makeshift "Audience Participation Kit" specifically designed to partake in all the deliciously decadent mayhem.

Once inside the McKnight, the pre-performance is already in progress with a montage of creepy cinematic clips from a bygone era. Five minutes out from the onset of Act One, the Narrator (a wonderfully wacky Phil Kilbourne) appears via film (designed by Jerry Belich, Brian Quarfoth and Chase Kennedy) to instruct the crowd on Rocky Horror etiquette, all while counting down to the opening.

Sure, this moldy oldy isn't highbrow theahta, but -- horror of all horrors (or is that whores?!) -- it certainly is fun. With the fantastic 2000 Broadway revival still haunting my memory, the bar was already set high.

The genius of this revival is its joyful embrace of the cult-like carnival that the film became and writing it all into the show, complete with comments flung back at the stage, seemingly from the audience, but in fact from the wings.

Without a strong Dr. Frank 'N Furter, the show could easily fall apart. Fortunately, Monte Wheeler delivers the goods with relish. While reminiscent of the film's Tim Curry, Wheeler makes this role entirely his. And his rich bass reverberates throughout, thanks in no small part to the top-notch sound design by Maury Jensen.

Equally vital are the souls needed to fill the 9-inch heels of Brad and Janet. As Brad, Bradley Beahen is spot-on perfect with impeccable voice and great comic timing. As Janet, Nicole Fenstad delights as she evolves from virginal to the gal who just wants to be dirty.

Other standouts include Randy Schmeling as Riff Raff, Nicky Schuenke as Magenta, Simone Perrin as Columbia and Joel Liestman as both Eddie and Dr. Scott.

If there's one actor not quite ready for prime time, it's Ben Bakken as the muscle-bound Rocky. Don't misunderstand, Bakken has great skills, but doesn't quite look the part due to his youth -- especially after having seen Sebastian LaCause do it, so to speak, on Broadway. Unfair comparison? Perhaps, but anyone who saw LaCause would be hard pressed to forget him easily.

Still, overall this is one delightful hot patootie, rest my soul. And with an ending that incorporates the actual venue into the plot, you'll want to spend some time in this time warp.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Click here for tickets.

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At 01 November, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Post Script: With apologies to Ben Bakken, if you'd like to see my idea of how Rocky should look, take a look at this from Hudson Valley, New York (courtesy of Erica).


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