(Photo: Jeff Malet)
Rocky Horror and Halloween go together like Hollywood stars and hit-and-run accidents. Whether it’s a midnight screening at E-Street Cinema or a local production of the Richard O’Brien musical, the show takes on a special significance during this time of year when “sexy” costumes of all kinds are in vogue. What makes Rocky Horror different from any other show is the musical’s culture of attending performances in costume, heckling the cast with call-outs, and taking part alongside the show through the use of props. As a result the campy tale of Brad (Chad W. Fornwalt) and Janet’s (Ali Hoxie) night at a mysterious castle inhabited by a trans-sexual cohort turns into a cult performing arts experience that everybody has to experience at least once.
The Washington Savoyards paid special attention to the Rocky culture as they opened their production of The Rocky Horror Show at the Atlas Performing Arts Center. The audience on H-Street maybe a bit too hip to show up to a performance in heels and corsets as they demonstrated this past weekend but the vibe was still there with bags of props sold to patrons in the lobby and a healthy encouragement from the cast for audience members to shout some of the more commonly known Rocky call-outs. Director Jay D. Brock and company understand that the audience entertains themselves as much as the actors on stage and have created a production that plays to the Rocky Horror fans out there.
Before the show starts cast members took audience members through a “Rocky Virgin” initiation where first-timers get the Rocky seal of approval through a red V written on the forehead with lipstick. To those that have never been to a Rocky show it maybe surprising but for somebody that’s been there, done that it’s not. I will note though that I haven’t seen the tradition done before a live show and it was a welcome kick-off for this production.
All of your Rocky Horror favorites from Frank N Furter (Ryan Patrick Welsh) to Dr. Scott (Chip Hewitt) can be found in the Savoyards’ production but there is one special twist. This production has turned the narrator role into a rotating guest spot which the Savoyards have filled with many familiar names in the DC Theatre Scene. Both Eric Schaeffer and Matthew Gardiner from Signature Theatre have already been announced as future narrators as well as Fox 5′s Sue Palka. The production I attended featured Michael Bobbitt, the Artistic Director of Adventure Theatre who exclaimed, “I do Children’s Theatre!” when faced with some of the raunchier lines of night.
Brock and Choreographer Christen Svingos utilized every square inch of Atlas’ Sprenger Theatre in their staging. With limited space in front of the house, scenes often spilled into the aisles, right into the middle of the 280 seat house. Yet another way the live show brings the action closer than any film screening could.
Brock’s ensemble of merry revelers did a good job trudging through the corn-filled lines, over the jeers from the audience. The tall frame of Welsh looks as if he was made to play Frank N Furter and I absolutely adored Columbia (Kelly Craige) as well as the costume stylings of Cheryl Patton Wu. Wu even managed to add a little panache to Riff Raff (John Loughney) and Magenta (Autumn Seavey), roles that are pretty bland in the costume department.
And if you are looking for some muscles, Tim Rogan has plenty to offer as the scantily clad Rocky. His body is so ripped I swear it’s photoshopped.
If there’s a Halloween Rocky Horror itch that you cannot scratch then the Washington Savoyards has a workable solution. While not your typical showstopper production, it has the right ingredients to bring a little hot patootie to your Halloween night.
Washington Savoyard’s production of The Rocky Horror Show, performs through November 4th in the Sprenger Theatre at the Atlas Performing Arts Center. The Atlas Performing Arts Center is located at 1333 H St NE Washington, DC 20002. Closest Metro stop: Union Station (Red line). For more information call 202-399 – 7993.