The Rocky Horror Show

303 Collective Accents the 'Alternative' on a Camp Classic

Posted In: Arts & Entertainment, Theatre,   From Issue 620   By: Robert E Martin

17th August, 2006     0

"Jesus Christ, can you just shut up? I'm trying to watch a #%)@ piece of theatre here! This is not the 'Life of Brian', people!"
                               
 - Culture critic Lester Bangs,
 Reviewing the 'Rocky Horror Picture Show'

When the cult classic The Rocky Horror Show first made its debut on the West End of London's Theatrical District, the campy production served as the perfect metaphor for the 'glitter age' of the 1970s. 

An antithesis to the big budget Broadway peace 'n love hippie vibe of Hair, Rocky took the androgynous, ambi-sexual, and Sci-Fi musical elements of early Glam Rockers like David Bowie, Marc Bolan, and Kiss and melded the music to a storyline celebrating sexual freedom through the liberation of repressed libidos worldwide. 

It also gave former Saginaw musician Meatloaf his first big crack at stardom; and to top it all off, propelled Creem Magazine rock critic Lester Bangs to scribe perhaps the shortest review in literary history, due to the fact that both the play & film often propelled audiences to dress in drag as their favorite characters and re-enact segments of the storyline, hurtling objects, shooting water pistols, and making noise at certain pivotal moments, creating a theatrical experience not unlike watching Mystery Science Theatre 3000  on speed.

Given it's storied roots, it is entirely fitting that the 303 Collective is busy taking its own stab at this transitional piece of alternative art that actually carved its way into mainstream consciousness.  Located at 303 Adams at Niagara in Old Town Saginaw, the group will be presenting performances of Rocky Horror on August 17, 18, 20, 25, 27 at 8:00 PM along with special 'midnight' performances on August 19 & 26.

To the unitiated, The Rocky Horror Show is a musical spook spoof that dissects and splices together opposing elements of Sci-Fi, Musicals, and Horror films by telling the tale of Brad & Janet (Paul Kostrzewa and Natalie Myers) who get a flat tire on a late rainy night and decide to stop off at a nearby castle to use the residents' phone and call for help. What they don't realize is that the residents consist of transsexual Dr. Frank 'N Furter (Caitlin Berry) and trusted servant Riff Raff (Brian Bateson) and a ragtag group of fellow 'Transylvanians' that have their own plans for the hapless stranded duo over the course of the evening.

Directed by Stasi Schaeffer, who last directed The Median and Suor Angelica at Pit & Balcony, the 303 production cast also consists of Deena Nicol, Kristyn Hemmingway, Steve Webb, Todd Berner, Honesty Elliott, Samantha Whetsone, Scott Warnke and Brian Collver.

Given the strong musical score of Rocky Horror, replete with the audience participation dance The Time Warp, this production also features musical director Noel Howland and a live five-piece band including members of Barbarossa and drummer Bill Silverthorn.

Insofar as she is dealing with such an iconoclastic play, considered avant garde for the time, what are Stasi's thoughts about directing Rocky Horror 30 years down the timeline? "I think that the endurance of Rocky over the decades have proven its not just a cult classic, but a classic musical," she reflects. "The challenge exists in restating it. Everybody knows Rocky Horror and is coming with an expectation in their mind. Most people have seen the  film, at least part of it, at least once, so they have an 'image' in their mind."

"We're not recreating it, so if you want that, you should rent the movie. Having said this, we're also not changing the context or the music, but putting a modern twist on it and bringing in this group of actors that will make each of their characters different.  The only thing specific to the movie is the actual steps to the 'Time Warp', because let's face it, that's something you don't want to change. But everything else is new, different, and fresh - our own interpretation. Essentially, we've modernized it and made it our own."

Perhaps one of the most unique 'twists' in this production of Rocky Horror is the fact that Dr. Frank 'N Furter (played by Tim Curry) in the film, is being channeled through the estimable talents of actress/singer Caitlin Berry, whom is certainly no stranger to theatrical & musical circles in the tri-cities.

"This is kind of a Victor/Victoria thing for me," laughs Berry when asked about the challenges of getting in deeper touch with her androgynous side. "I'm actually looking forward to this because it's by far the most bizarre role I've undertaken.  I haven't seen the film in about 10 years, but Tim Curry's voice is still in my head and I'm trying hard to do things differently.  I'm working with the lower registers of my voice, so right now it's a little bit butch and a little bit vanity queen, but I'm still working on perfecting it."

"Caitlin is a powerhouse," comments Stasi, "and she's an amazing singer and actress. I don't use those terms lightly. Most people that have seen her sing don't see her other dynamics come through. Plus she's a great dancer to top it all off. Who better to play this role, really?

I think she brings it all into focus. She has that edginess to her which is what the character needs. Mainly what I hope for is that all the actors have fun with this show. What makes it a gas is that they're all having fun, able to perform, but enjoy themselves at something they love."

As for the remaining cast members, Stasi looked at people she's worked with over the years in both musicals and more challenging shows.

"I put a lot of thought into the cast before we even started," she explains. "I've worked with great performers over the past few years I've been directing, and Paul and Natalie are the perfect ingénue couple. Who better to play Brad & Janet? Natalie is going off to school after the run of the show, so this is special for her."

"Deena Nicol is also a great performer and we have two new people, Brian Bateson as Riff Raff, has never performed before and is doing an excellent job, and Honesty Elliott has worked in opera at Pit & Balcony. I coerced her into the role and its great to see her take 'baby steps' into the theatre."

When asked about how the show 'holds up' over the years, Caitlin is quick to comment: "I think it's freaky enough to be timeless. It has that element of the '70s portraying how they '50s were, which is a historical transition point in a way. Nobody should ever redo the movie, but the play should be tweaked over and over, and the beauty is that it possesses the latitude to do that."

Another set of surprises for audiences will exist with the set designs. Marc Beaudin designed the set and serves as Technical Director.  So what vision did he have for the visual settings on this incarnation of Rocky Horror?

"Well, the basic concept is the idea that people came from this other planet that are insane sex fiends and aliens trying to hide out and make their house look like a 'normal' home. But they fail miserably because they're suck freaks from outer space and can't do anything without their sexuality pouring all over it.  Consequently, a lot of the imagery and symbolism in the sets will be very sexual. I will say that some 'machinery' is being made and constructed - a 'sex machine', but not the James Brown version," laughs Marc.

"Another thing is that in addition to a play this is kind of a rock concert, so a lot of the lighting will be rock oriented. Plus we're staging it in an area double the normal size, which will increase our seating capacity. We've also got risers now, so we won't experience some of the seating problems we've had in the past with performances."

Doors for all performances will open 30 minutes before the event. Admission is $10.00 for adults and $8.00 for students. For reservations please call the 303 Hotline at 989-980-7746. Inquiries to the 303 may be directed to the303collective@yahoo.com

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