By Manning Harris
“I think we passed a castle a little ways back there.”
If you don’t get a thrill of “antici—pation” when you hear newlywed Brad (Benjamin Davis) say that to his bride Janet (Randi Garza), then you clearly are a virgin: You have never seen either the film “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” or the musical play on which it’s based.
Actor’s Express aims to rectify that intolerable situation right now with its hilariously decadent production “The Rocky Horror Show,” running through August 9.
If you’ve never heard of the show, then you’re probably not human but instead pure olive oil—extra extra virgin style, or you’re under four years old.
Please don’t be offended; just have yourself some delicious summer fun and see the show.
After the explosive late 60’s with its cultural revolutions of black power, hippie power, gay power, and make-love-not-war movement, it wasn’t long until a young British-New Zealand writer/actor named Richard O’Brien penned a “gothic-themed, schlock-horror comic book fantasy romp” for the London stage in 1973. It took off, gathering cult audiences almost immediately, and in 1975 “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” was filmed. It has become the longest continually showing movie (in midnight shows and other venues) in history.
How to describe “Rocky Horror”? I won’t give the plot (well, maybe a bit), but I can tell you that the show is gender-bending. When Brad and Janet’s car breaks down on a dark and stormy night (naturally), they find themselves outside the aforementioned castle. They are gleefully welcomed by Magenta (Diany Rodriguez) and Riff Raff (Jeremiah Parker Hobbs) and other castle denizens (called Phantoms), but especially by the lord of the manor, Dr. Frank ‘N’ Furter (Craig Waldrip).
Dr. Furter is at once menacing and seductive, forceful and flamboyant, and says in song that he’s just a “sweet transvestite from transsexual Transylvania.” He tells the couple not to worry about the car; he’ll have a “satanic mechanic” fix it and meanwhile, they can stay the night.
Meanwhile, upstairs, Frank ‘N’ Furter’s masterpiece creation is not Frankenstein but a blond, blue-eyed, extremely handsome “creature” called Rocky (Brian Hatch). He’s not only pleasant company but is very good at “relieving tension.”
By now you can see that this is a very sexy, very funny piece of theatre. And as director Freddie Ashley pointed out in Georgia Voice, the two qualities “needn’t be mutually exclusive.” Mae West showed America this phenomenon way back in the 1930’s and became a huge star; she could be very sexy and wink at herself at the same time. So does Dr. Frank ‘N’ Furter. However, please leave the children home, as the Express cagily and correctly advises.
Veteran actress Jill Hames almost steals the show with her brilliant turn as Eddie/Dr. Scott. The play has an amusingly calm, sedate Narrator (Kevin Harry). In a Broadway revival in 2001, Dick Cavett did the honors. I think the mayor of Atlanta or maybe the governor of Georgia would do nicely as the Narrator. Just a thought. And Ashley Prince is a hoot as Columbia, one of Furter’s furtives.
This is a big show with more folks on the design team than I can mention here; they’re all in the program. But Seth Davis (music director), Ricardo Aponte (choreography), and Eric Teague and Andrew Hobson (costume designers) all get shout-outs here. The energetic Phantoms include Chase Alford, Jason-Jamal Ligon, Stephanie Lloyd, Megan Poole, Julissa Sabino, and Jordan-William Snead.
Director Ashley has picked a fine cast; again, there’s not enough space to sing the praises of the increasingly impressive and versatile Jeremiah Parker Hobbs, or of Randi Garza, Diany Rodriguez, Benjamin Davis, or of Mr. Waldrip’s Frank ‘N’ Furter.
Speaking of Frank, I must say that Waldrip is an accomplished performer and a fine singer. But I think that this is a swing-for-the-fences role if there ever was one: I wish he would infuse a still more devilish, sassy confidence into “the doctor.” He could easily do it, and since he rather dominates the show and the run is just beginning, I think he will.
Finally, Ashley correctly said that “Rocky Horror” is “a celebration of otherness”; audiences all over the world continue to respond to it. It’s time to let your freak flag fly. And “Don’t dream it; be it!” Incidentally, they’re being it (the movie) every Friday night at midnight at Atlanta’s Plaza Theatre, and have been for years.
So practice your “Time Warp” and get on over to Actor’s Express. You’ll leave a better man. Or woman. Or both. Or in-between. It’s a “Science Fiction Double Feature,” and anything is possible.
For tickets and information, visit actorsexpress.com.