REVIEW: Ridiculous can be fun in The Rocky Horror Show

Latex glove. Playing cards. Toilet paper. Flashlight. Confetti. The contents of the audience participation kit seemed a little intimidating at first glance, especially for someone whose only previous experience with The Rocky Horror (Picture) Show took place one Halloween 13 years ago under the influence of pink lemonade-vodka cocktails. I was ready to believe the hype, yet didn’t even make it to the Time Warp before pressing eject on the VCR.

But there’s no eject button in real life, and once you’re in your seat at the Citadel Theatre, you’d better stay there. Seriously, the ushers aren’t shy with their tongue-lashings. Those are both good things, because it turns out the Time Warp scene is when The Rocky Horror Show really gets rolling. The musical plays through Nov. 20 (read preview story).

For those who don’t regularly attend midnight screenings armed with hot dogs, water pistols and toast, The Rocky Horror Show is the bizarro tale of straight-laced couple Brad and Janet and their sexual awakening at the hands of mad scientist and transvestite Frank N. Furter. It’s glam and campy and makes very little sense, but get past it, because the Citadel’s inaugural production of Richard O’Brien’s infamous musical proves that ridiculous can be a lot of fun. It’s not often one sees a hundred rolls of toilet paper sailing through the air beneath the lights of the Shoctor Theatre.

Directed by Leigh Rivenbark, The Rocky Horror Show is high-energy and filled with a sex shop’s worth of naughty costume changes. The entire cast puts their all into the many musical numbers, but Frank (John Ullyatt) steals the show from the moment he emerges from his silver coffin-contraption in a magnificently feathered wrap to his spotlight singing on a sequined swing to his glittering campy exit out the second–floor gate. He throws all conventions out the window (case in point: planting a big smooch on a middle-aged male audience member) and during Sunday’s preview performance, even small slips involving 6-inch heels and staircases are improvised through without skipping a beat.

There are some absolutely hilarious moments, most notably the lewd shadow play opening the second act that sees both Janet and Brad deflowered by a conniving Frank. The set also boasts some really cool details, such as the elaborate spacey console in the lab, the infamous metal chamber of Rocky’s birth where he later gets busy with Janet, and the fact that you can kind of see the live band doing their thing way in the background.

For fans of the movie version (and the sold-out Metro screenings indicate there are a lot of you out there), The Rocky Horror Show offers a new way to enjoy a familiar favorite at precisely the right time of year, without sacrificing those all-important elements of glove-snapping and noisemaking.

As for me, I wouldn’t yet call myself a convert, but I just may do the Time Warp again someday.