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Rocky Horror Show at Croswell Opera House is a blast (Review) October 20, 2012

Posted by ronannarbor in Community Theater, Entertainment, musical theater, Musicals.
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The Rocky Horror Show, that bizarreness of a stage musical that became a cult hit in London in the early 70’s and a midnight-movie cult in the US, returns to the Croswell Opera House for its third incarnation in recent years, and its a big, sprawling, hilarious blast of musical theater mess.

Once again directed by Eric Parker, and including many of the original cast (albeit in some new roles) as well as some newcomers, the show begs to ask the question, “why?”….well, why not?

Paul Manger makes for a terrific new Frank ‘n’ Furter as he sashays around the large open set in heels and corset, spitting out the lines and songs with the best of them; Katy Kujala is a great-voiced Janet, and Scotland Mills a fine furry boyfriend Brad. Zane Dickerson reprises the role of Rocky in all his body building glory; Eric Parker is a hilarious Riff Raff, and Kyrie Bristle nearly steals the entire show from all of them as Magenta in the waning minutes of the musical.

To be sure, there are ups and downs in the cast — but everyone is solid in their roles, and everyone has a blast and it shows. Stephanie L. Stephan provides some terrific dance movement and she is wise: she understands who can move, and who less so and she makes the most of that knowledge (a skill required by the best choreographers working with non-professional casts at various level of skill). It all looks terrific on the Croswell stage.

Keith Holloway’s set is serviceable, and projections hilarious. Lighting by Tiff Crutchfield is colorful and appropriate to the mood of the show. Cindy Farnham’s costumes range from decent to spectacular. The one problematic tech area in this production is sound: and in this instance, NOT the Croswell’s system, but the actual sound design. The orchestra (under the sure direction of Todd Schreiber) is located backstage, and they sound muffled. When the ensemble joins them for off-stage background vocals, the vocals can barely be heard. While some of the cast use body mics, the other leads use wireless handset mics. While it ads a great touch of “70’s” style kitsch, it results in vocal inbalance throughout. When the entire ensemble is onstage, with leads using mics, the ensemble becomes a vocal afterthought and they can not be heard clearly. The result is some great looking ensemble numbers that have no vocal “pop”; i.e., it doesn’t sound like a rock score should. There were also some missed soundboard cues, that I am sure will resolve themselves as the show gets further into its run. If ever a show deserved better sound design, this is it.

Of course, Rocky Horror is only as good as its audience participation — and there is a lot of it here. You an purchase a participation goody bag at the concession stand before the show, and join in — and if you have never seen a production of Rocky Horror, take a few minutes to peruse the many websites that give you audience shoutback suggestions. At the friday night opening performance, those who knew the show clearly had a better time than those who did not — and to the audience (and cast) surprise, some of the best ShoutBack audience members were in attendance in the first row. They made for a rollicking (if profanity-laced) evening. You’ve been warned — Rocky Horror itself is kind of a 70s throwback-edgy show, lets rate it PG-13…but throw in that awesome audience participation, and it becomes R-Rated instantly.

If the Friday night audience was any indication, this is one of those shows that will need some extra word of mouth to sell tickets — the audience was about half full. BUY TICKETS. The show is terrific and fast-paced, the cast is hilarious, and you will have a wonderful time at this Rocky.

The Rocky Horror Show continues through October 27th at the Croswell Opera House, Adrian MI. Tickets at croswell.org, or by phone at 517-264-7469. There is also a costume contest during intermission every Friday and Saturday night.

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