If being hit on the head by a piece of sponge foam toast or across the face by a flying condom isn’t your cup of tea, then you might want to avoid Marin Musical Theatre Company’s The Rocky Horror Show’s final, Halloween-eve performances at The Playhouse in San Anselmo.
Richard O’Brien’s 1973 musical tribute to cheesy genre films combined with an early celebration of gender fluidity proved unsuccessful on the American stage its first time around, and the 1975 film adaptation pretty much flopped. It wasn’t until its midnight movie–booking that the Rocky Horror phenomenon began.
The strange tale of Brad Majors (Lorenzo Alviso) and Janet Weiss (director Jenny Boynton) and the night their car broke down near the castle of Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Jake Gale) as he unveiled his latest creation (Michael Lumb) is an amalgam of horror and sci-fi film plots. Add an evil butler (Nelson Brown), an inquisitive science professor (Ken Adams) and various fishnet-stockinged, bustier-and-spiked-heel-wearing hangers-on and you have a show.
Modern stage versions of the show adapt the audience “callbacks” that are an integral part of the cinematic Rocky Horror experience. A regular at midnight screenings in the late 1970’s, I can tell you those callbacks grew cruder and lewder (and funnier) during the last 40 years, as did directors’ approaches to the show in general. I think the show loses something for it.
In the zeal to go as over the top as possible, the show loses a great deal of its heart, and the show does have heart. It’s in the music—particularly the wistful “I’m Coming Home” and the celebration of individuality of “Don’t Dream It, Be It”—and it can be in the characters if directed with that in mind.
Or, you can treat the show can be treated like a giant Halloween party, which is the approach taken here. The converted gymnasium venue, its set (or lack thereof) and technical issues gave it the feel and look of a “hey kids, let’s put on a show” production. The cast is energetic, the vocals (when properly mic’d) are good and most of the tamer-than-expected audience members seemed to have a good time.
If you don’t mind cast members draping their half-nude bodies across yours, so will you.