The Rocky Horror Show at The Firehouse Theatre Project (Or, whaddaya mean I can’t yell ‘Asshole!’?)

The Rocky Horror Picture Show is (and has been for 40 years) a true phenomenon, inspiring generations of “freaks “; letting them know they are not alone.

That’s a fantastic legacy for a play and film that has about 45 minutes of good material.

It’s known mostly as a film that is at times so poorly paced and acted that fans in the 1970s began to fill silences onscreen by talking back to the movie. That’s why it was a bit of a disappointment, though not unexpected, when I saw a note on the font of the program stating “audience participation is strictly prohibited”.

Ah, bummer man!

Even though I know the film (very well), I didn’t know what to expect seeing a live production; and the first surprise came with the first song, “Science Fiction Double Feature”, sung by a very sultry and sexy Magenta (Joy Newsome). Newsome’s time onstage is worth the ticket price. While she was wearing glitter and lingerie, her voice was truly enough to get my attention.

“The Master”, Frank N. Furter is played by Terence Sullivan. Upon his entrance number (the iconic “Sweet Transvestite”), Sullivan tried very hard to channel Tim Curry (who played the role on film), but by the end of the song, and every song afterward, Sullivan sounded more like Adam Lambert. Only when he spoke dialogue did he have Curry’s accent and rhythm down. It’s a tough role and he has some imposing fishnets to fill, I just wish he would’ve chosen one of the two to use as his template. He did a great job, but the differences in his vocal and dialogue delivery were at times frustrating.

If you know “Rocky Horror” then you know that for almost the entire show, most of the cast slips into (and out of) lingerie. There was a lot of ‘shock value’ in that wardrobe choice in 1975, but, How to push the envelope for a 2012 audience?

The answer: trading in innuendo for silhouetted -sex scenes that, while no nudity is involved, leave nothing to the imagination. See this play with someone you know very well. That will spare you some very awkward moments and post-show conversation.

Richard O’Brien wrote the book, lyrics and music, and this Richmond production does include songs that were not part of the original play: “Round Like A Record”, a solo moment for Columbia that was a single for Little Nell, who played Columbia on film, the year after Rocky. The song was okay, but a bit forced to try and fit into the story. Also included for some unknown reason is the title to the Rocky companion piece “Shock Treatment” from 1981 (Don’t call it a Rocky sequel!).

The First Act of any production of Rocky Horror is always its strongest portion, namely the first five songs. After Act One ends, the songs become average and the plot, in a word, disappears entirely.

This production definitely has the right spirit and enthusiasm. The whole cast is strong, particularly Brad (Nick Shackleford) and Janet (Aly Wepplo). Newsome as Magenta is BETTER than the portrayal in the movie, and, from a selfish perspective, just like the movie, Columbia is portrayed by a very sexy redhead (Maggie Horan, who has a much better voice than Little Nell)

Go see it (again, with someone you know VERY well) and enjoy a fun, sexy, campy good time.

Remember, it’s just a jump to the left…

Thanks for reading,

The Rocky Horror Show at Firehouse Theatre Project thru August 25.

Tickets $14-$28