Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Rocky Horror Show at Theatre in the Grove



Catch a special performance of the show that runs through November 10 at Midnight on Halloween  

By Tina Arth and Darrell Baker 

While we have seen The Picture Show, after forty years of theater-going we still entered Theatre in the Grove’s “The Rocky Horror Show” as virgins to live performance of this cult classic, a fact rammed home to us before we left the lobby. First, we were greeted by the gaudily painted, lushly endowed, corseted usherette – then our ghoulish usher scrawled a bright red “V” on each of our foreheads before we were seated. From that point on, the madness only escalated. For the next week, we will be obediently wearing rubber poultry around our necks, having been instructed to do so by an anonymous, bearded, kilted gentleman. Presumably, he is in some way connected to the show – but in any case, he is not the sort of person one ignores. And this was at the Sunday matinee, presumably aimed at bluehairs (like us? Horrors!)  - we can only imagine how the midnight shows will go!

We won’t go into much detail about the story – if you know the show, you know it, and if you don’t know the show, nothing we tell you will be of any help. Suffice it to say that ‘50s era uber-virgins Brad and Janet, recently affianced, stumble into Frank-N-Furter’s transsexual, Transylvanian castle of love and horror on a dark and stormy night. Mayhem ensues.

“Rocky Horror” belongs to a small theatrical genre that’s all about having fun – the audience is meant to participate enthusiastically in a celebration of unbridled campiness. The key to achieving this goal is that the cast embrace the spirit and then drag (and we mean drag) the audience into the production. The TITG cast does a spectacular job, as they let it all hang out (again, somewhat literally) and exhort us to do the same – clearly, they ARE having fun, and we can do no less.

“Rocky Horror” is an ensemble show; this production features no brilliant, soaring vocals (Sarah Brightman is apparently otherwise engaged). However, the choral work is superb, especially given the physical demands made on the actors, who spend a lot of time crawling, dancing, leaping, strutting, mugging, shrieking, moaning, and leering – often while semi-naked, and balanced on terrifyingly high-heels.

Despite the ensemble nature of the show, there are many memorable individual performances. William Dober (Frank N Furter) does an excellent job of capturing his role’s complexity – one-third mad scientist, two-thirds dominant-transvestite-bisexual-libertine-host – and his powerful voice (both singing and speaking) displays his total command of the material. Brad and Janet (Justin Canfield and Abby Boardman), both solid actors, reflect the cluelessness of the audience (or at least the Rocky Horror virgins therein) and mirror our initial confusion about what is happening on stage. As they are literally stripped of their clothing (poor Brad is quite pathetic in his tighty-whities, and Janet’s retro bra and girdle leave her chastely exposed) they are simultaneously stripped of their Eisenhower era innocence. Abby’s singing voice is particularly effective at capturing the nuance of the changes she undergoes.

Rocky (Joseph Baisch) earns many of the best laughs, with his impressive physique, childlike confusion, and gold-lame (short) shorts. Usherette Kailea Saplan also merits special mention – it is her solid vocals that anchor the show, as she belts the leads in the opening and closing numbers. Among the rest of the principals (all heavy hitters), Zachary Centers’ portrayal of not-so-humble minion Riff Raff demands extravagant praise. In a show filled with electricity, his Ziegfeldian staircase entrance in Act II sends waves of shock throughout the audience.

Sets, direction, choreography, lighting, costumes, make-up, special effects – like the cast, all work together beautifully to bring life to this chaotic theatrical adventure. Finally, conductor Alicia Barrett leads her small orchestra with a steady hand, and her musicians deliver cacophony and harmony as the score demands.

“The Rocky Horror Show” is playing at Theatre in the Grove, 2028 Pacific Avenue, Forest Grove through November 10th Shows start at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday with 2:30 p.m. matinees on Sunday. Catch special midnight performances on October 31st, November 3d, and November 10th


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