For the most diehard fans, it never gets old. And each year, believe it or not, there's someone new in the audience who has never seen it before.
The Rocky Horror show debuted on stage in London in 1973, and this will be the third consecutive year that the American Theatre Company will present the campy classic in the John H. Williams Theater of the Tulsa Performing Arts Center.
This is also the third year that the PAC's own programming director Chad Oliverson will don red pleather hot pants and gyrate across the stage as the maniacal, oversexed Dr. Frank-N-Furter. But besides a few familiar faces and ever soaring libidos, much of what you may be used to from former years has changed.
Oliverson said the show's director Ed Durnell and others in ATC gave him more creative license this year with his character and the production as a whole.
"ATC let me have a say in costuming, ideas and casting," Oliverson said. "It made me feel really good."
Oliverson wanted to make changes in the details of the show and in his character that would deepen the story.
For instance, "I wanted to be more clothed at the beginning of the show. (Dr. Frank-N-Furter) is very in control in the beginning, so the clothes are very bondage-like and tight with lots of buckles. Very dominatrix-like," said Oliverson.
"As the show goes on, he gets softer, and so the clothes get softer. They go from blacks and reds and buckles to silvers and greens and feathers. At the end, he's the most vulnerable he's ever been, so he's stripped. And that's where (the new costume) comes in," he continued.
The "new costume" is the most risqué Rocky Horror audiences have seen yet--which says a lot to those who have seen the show--a silver beaded thong.
Oliverson said he's not sure how much the audience will really care about these subtle differences, but they make his character more real and enhance the story.
"He can't just be the meringue on top of the pie. He has to have a journey," said Oliverson.
Frank-N-Furter's journey, and the musical tale of Rock Horror, begins with Brad Majors and Janet Weiss, newly engaged, trekking through the dark woods to visit their former professor. When their car breaks down, they seek refuge at the old Frankenstein Place and madness shortly thereafter ensues.
The keeper of the castle is Dr. Frank-N-Furter, a mad scientist of sorts who makes it his mission to bestow upon all around him a "sexual awakening."
The Broadway show was made even more famous by the film, and both have garnered a cult following that is evident even at the ATC productions of the show. Throughout the musical, the audience takes on its own role, calling back to the actors on stage and some of what is said will make you laugh even harder than the actors who are performing.
All in all, the show is really about finding out who you are and being comfortable in your own skin.
"The show's about celebrating your own skin," said Oliverson. "It's about finding out who you are inside. Anyone can find that inner sex appeal and be proud of it."
To exemplify this, Oliverson said during casting, he wanted to make sure the chorus was represented through a wide range of ages, body types and personalities.
He also said the choreography (by Kara Steiger) is better than it's ever been this year and that much of the set has been stripped away to allow the band to perform onstage, giving it the aura of a rock concert.
He thinks this performance will probably be the best Tulsa's seen, and, for that reason, he may hang his hat as Frank-N-Furter after the final curtain closes.
"I don't want to be doing this in 30 years," Oliverson said. "No one wants to see me at 50 still trying to be Frank-N-Furter. And I feel really good about the show this year, and I want to go out feeling good about it."
Although, he added that he hasn't necessarily decided on this as a course of action.
"We'll just see how it goes," he said.
The Rock Horror Show opens this Friday, October 19 at 8pm in the Williams Theater of the Tulsa PAC, 110 E. 2nd St. and continues this weekend through October 21. Saturday night's performance is also at 8pm and Sunday's is at 2pm. Next week, the show runs from Wed., Oct. 24 through Sat., Oct. 27, with performances at 8pm. Tickets are $20 to $24, and you can get 'em at the box office, at 596-7111 or at www.myticketoffice.com.
As They Go Along
I don't often catch a lot of the local improv shows, but I did see one at Heller over the weekend that's worth writing about.
I heard about The Spontaniacs late last week, and was intrigued by list of rather prominent names on the playbill. Some of Tulsa's best-known and finest actors had banned together for a one-night improv performance at the theater at 5328 S. Wheeling.
Sally Adams, Jarrod Kopp, Angie Mitchell, George Nelson, Eric Peterson and Jason Watts have all taught improvisation skills at various points in their theatrical careers and have found that, with all the teaching, they rarely have time to perform together, Adams told me. So, about three months ago, they formed The Spontaniacs, using Heller Theater as a place to rehearse and play.
Their first show was Friday night and combined elements of both long and short-form improv. In between short warm-up games, the group created two soap operas based on audience suggestions. One was "Masher Mountain," about mountains and potato mashers, and the other "Swimming Down the Avenue," about fish tanks and Bourbon Street.
From there, the actors created these stories out of thin air, the audience rolling with laughter throughout.
During the second act, they combined the two soap operas in a last ditch effort to keep them from cancellation, and the new show was called "Swimming in Bourbon and Mash." During this second act, each of the actors maintained two previously established characters, switching them on and off as they entered and left the room. There were some hang-ups and the story seemed pretty directionless, but where it didn't quite work out, the audience was forgiving and the actors able to laugh at themselves.
The thing that's always scared me about improv and why I've never liked it all that much is that you really must give up all control on stage. Since you never know what's going to happen, you have to be ready for anything, and it's enormously difficult. I found that when I was able to relax enough to have fun with it, I was actually pretty good at it, but it terrified me none-the-less.
The added pressure is that, while you're creating a scene out of the hallows of your mind, the audience expects it to be good. It's really almost too much to ask.
Still, this group was wonderful at it, as I suspected it would be. I asked Adams if they would be performing much from here on out, and she said she wasn't sure.
"If Friday night goes well, we might try to schedule some more gigs," she said. "If it doesn't work, we'll just say, 'Oh, well. That was fun.'"
The show did work, though, and it was a lot of fun. Hopefully, we'll see more out of this group soon. I'll keep you posted.
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