Time warp again
The Rocky Horror Show
Aren’t we all just looking for an excuse to dress up in funny costumes and scream and dance? Isn’t that what rock ’n’ roll is all about? The Rocky Horror Show is Richard O’Brien’s original 1973 stage musical, and the inspiration for the cult classic flick The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The play, currently being presented by Truckee Meadows Community College’s performing arts troupe is a trashy and flamboyant celebration of life’s most pleasurable overindulgences, complete with hammy dialogue and some catchy glam rock tunes.
The central character of The Rocky Horror Show is Dr. Frank N. Furter, a transvestite and mad scientist with a rock star personality. In the film, the good doctor is played to memorable effect by Tim Curry. Owen Bryant, who plays the character in TMCC’s production, has found that Curry’s performance has left some big shoes to fill—specifically bright red vinyl go-go boots with five-inch heels.
“I’m getting the hang of it now,” says Bryant. “My legs and feet kind of hurt after rehearsals, but it’s definitely toned up my legs a lot. I’ve got a lot more definition and muscles.”
One advantage Bryant has is that he literally towers over the rest of the cast. He’s 6-feet-6-inches barefoot, so in the heels and with his big beehive hairdo, he stands nearly 8 feet tall. With his long, lean figure, he looks like a cross between Joey Ramone and Peg Bundy.
Running around in nothing but a gold thong is Frank’s “monster,” a beautiful muscleman named Rocky, played here by John Frederick. He’s the most scantily clad cast member in a show well-known for its scantily clad cast.
It can be a daunting task.
“There’s always the cold factor,” says Frederick. “Running around stage barefoot all the time is always quite the challenge. … And you have to be the muscleman, so I end up being in the gym a lot, trying to make sure I’m true to what the writers are going for.”
Part of the Rocky Horror experience is going to the show in costume and heckling the onstage action with a repertoire of running gags and dumb one-liners that have accumulated at screenings of the film over the last 30-odd years.
“It’s definitely a new experience,” says Frederick of acting during the constant barrage of audience heckles. “Because there’s funny people out there, and you have to stay in character.”
“We love the audience responses, because it just shows that they’re enjoying it,” says Cecil Averett, who plays the show’s narrator and often interacts directly with the audience. “Most of [the heckles] aren’t very original,” he says. “It’s been the same comments for the last 30 years. But occasionally we hear a new one.”
How has Rocky Horror maintained its appeal for so long?
“My personal opinion is that it’s because it involves the audience so much,” says Frederick. “It’s not the strongest story ever written. It’s got great, fun music, which is always a draw. It’s that kind of music where you walk out of the theater, and it’s stuck in your head for a week.”
“The music is a lot of throwback stuff to the ‘50s,” says Bryant. “If you really listen to the chord progressions and the set-up of the songs, it’s almost like that doo wop ’50s feel, with a bit more of that rock element added to it. It’s actually pretty innocent music, for what the show’s about.”
Some local viewers might be tempted to draw a parallel to the Burning Man festival. Both events are beacons for folks looking to take their most bizarre clothes and desires out of the closet. Both events try to humiliate and embarrass “virgins,” first-time attendees. The Rocky Horror Show is like a miniature Burning Man for people who like camp more than camping.