Monday, January 26, 2015

After 40 years, the Rocky Horror Show is still a lot of fun; it runs until Feb. 15

    Jinny and I joined some friends in attending a showing of The Rocky Horror Show at the Playhouse on the Square in Memphis Sunday afternoon. It was a great show in a great venue. As you can see from the rehearsal video above (featuring the current cast), this show is a little different.
    Almost everyone of a certain age has seen the cult movie The Rocky Horror Picture Show a few times (and a few have seen it hundreds of times!). It was popular in the late 1970s through the 1980s as a midnight cult classic, and in fact never has stopped being shown each week at various theaters. It’s the longest running movie release in history.
    The film, which was adapted from a West End play, was initially a flop before it became a cult classic with midnight showings. Fans would dress up as their favorite characters and attend -- again, and again, and again.
    I wasn’t one of those to attend on a regular basis, and I certainly never dressed up, but once one gets over the shock of seeing a bunch of men running around on stage in the underwear the movie was a lot of fun. The Hoka in Oxford had a number of midnight showings back in the day.
    The Playhouse on the Square version is a lot of fun, too. The actors use a minimum of props, with actors playing the role of a bench or even windshield wipers. It may sound weird, but it worked, and worked well.
    I’m not going to try to say who did the best job. Frankenfurter was good; Columbia was good; Magenta was good; Brad and Janet were both good; Riff Raff was good; the narrator was good. Overall, the quality of the singing and acting was simply outstanding, with only a couple of minor rough spots. The live show isn't one for lots of audience participation, and patrons are instructed to leave their rice, newspapers, squirt guns, toast, playing cards, etc., at the door.
    I think we are all conditioned to think that an expensive theatrical performance is going to be better than a low-budget show. Personally, I thought the quality of the acting in The Rocky Horror Show was better than much of what I’ve seen at the Orpheum or on Broadway, although admittedly I'm no professional critic. I’ve tended to have trouble hearing at the Orpheum, were the acoustics aren’t the best. At the Playhouse, I could hear and understand everything the actors were saying or singing! I didn't have to keep poking Jinny and asking, "Whudhesay?"
    I’ve never been to the Playhouse on the Square before, but it is one of the most comfortable and enjoyable theatres I’ve visited. It only seats about 340 people, so it is an intimate setting; the balcony seats may be better than some of the floor seats. Tickets were only $29.95, although the Friday and Saturday shows cost more. Even if the Rocky Horror Show isn’t your thing, put this place down as a place to see a play or show. You won’t be disappointed.
    Oh, and 30 years ago we didn't have the Internet, and I never could figure out who Janet was referring to when she belted out "God Bless Lili St. Cyr!" It turns out she was a famous burlesque performer. So now you know.

    ■ The Rocky Horror Show runs at the Memphis Playhouse on the Square until Feb. 15, with evening showings Thursday through Friday and a matinee on Sundays. Tickets may be purchased online. Almost every seat is a good one, but the extreme outside edges have slight visibility problems in seats close to the stage.
Amanda Witt
    ■Amanda Wansa Morgan, an assistant professor in the Ole Miss theatre department, is the Rocky Horror Show's musical director. Three current Ole Miss students and two alumni are supporting cast members as Transylvanians. Current students are Cory Clark, Kate Louis Prender, and Bobby Kelly; and Ole Miss alums Kelley Michele and Cameron Yates.