by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM
The Edge nightclub at 845 N. University Blvd has opened Richard O’Brien’s “Rocky Horror Show.” This unique production, produced by Michael and Mary Jane Smithgall and directed by Blake Osner, continues October 26 to Halloween night, October 31. This rock musical has all the well known songs performed by fabulous voices, all that sexy lingerie, and the usual zany cast of characters.
If this show is new to you, a bit of background is in order. The Rocky Horror Show musical opened in London in 1973 and moved around to several theatres during 2,900 performances. It was made into a movie in 1975, which initially bombed and had poor reviews. In 1976, a movie theatre in New York opened it as a midnight show, and the Rocky legend was born. Soon more than 50 theatres were showing it regularly at midnight, a number which eventually grew to over 250 theatres across the county. A cult classic was indeed born. In Jacksonville it was an every Saturday affair at the San Marco Theatre at midnight. The male half of Dual Critics attended about 25 of these shows, joining the interactive audience as we threw handfuls of rice and used water pistols to create rain and cigarette lighters to create light. The movie remains extremely popular. The stage show is traditionally very interactive, with bags filled with approved props (no cigarette lighters) available for avid fans.
The fabulous Aaron Marshall opens the show with a great song as the Usherette. Ms. Marshall, who is also the Musical Director, doubles back as the character Columbia.
The Narrators, Juliet Fixel and Daniel Austin, introduce us to Brad and Janet, played by the handsome Ross Fontz and Jessica Alexander, who are both marvelous singers. While driving to visit a friend on a cold and rainy night, they are stranded in the countryside after their car has a flat tire. They make their way to Dr. Frankenfurter’s castle hoping to find a telephone, where they are greeted by Frank’s right hand man, Riff Raff (Alex Rodriquez) who has the best voice and is the handsomest Riff Raff you have ever heard and seen, and who has apparently found a cure for his hunchback.
Blake Osner reprises the role of Frankenfurter, a part he did twice at Limelight Theatre in successive summers. Osner is so good at it and is the sweetest transvestite we have ever encountered during the many times we have seen this show. To see the outfits he wears is worth the price of admission.
Frank has an expansive sex drive and to that end has created Rocky, a handsome golden-haired boy toy, in his laboratory. The role is played by Jimmy Alexander who wears the same costume he wore in “The Full Monty” at Players by the Sea, which consists of a (very small) golden G-string. Frank does have other sexual interests that include the aforementioned Columbia and Magenta (Amanda Morales). The other major characters include the wheelchair bound Dr. Scott (Larry Hession) and the guitar playing Eddie (Taylor Royals).
This version of Rocky Horror has a tantalizing group of appropriately dressed Frankenfurter devotees, called the Phantoms. They dance and sing throughout, often at the periphery of the stage. At times, they are actually part of the scenery as they create the castle doorway with their bodies and later play a hot stove for drying wet clothing. You really have to see it. This zany group of performers includes Brandon Mayes, Jillian Poland, Ilana Gould, Madi Mack, Marie Laperriere, Ron Shreve, Sami Gresham, Trey Lewek and Whitney Shafer.
This production has a short aerial show at the end, reminding us of Cirque de Soleil. Thick ropes on either side of the stage support two males performing graceful gyrations. It has nothing to do with the story line, but does look impressive.
The live band performed to Frankenfurter perfection and included Michael Ulmer, Damon Martin, Landon Baker, Chase Maddox and Zeek Smith.
Previous to the start of the show, Sailor Cher, the oldest of the Phantoms, did an impromptu comedy bit and in addition called upon the newbies seeing the Rocky stage show for the first time to come on stage. She called them Rocky’s Virgins and officially swore them in as Rocky Horror Fans.
Though not built to be a theatre as far as lighting is concerned, the production crew did some interesting and creative things with the spotlights usually used for the rock bands appearing at Edge. The only negative thing was minor. The music from the night club next door did bleed through the walls on a couple of short occasions, but there was so much going on in Rocky’s space that only the Dual Critics seemed to notice.
If you are planning to attend here are some helpful tips. There is plenty of parking in The Town & County Shopping Center. The seats are on a first-come first-served basis, so get there early. If you have a tender derriere, you will want to settle into one of several stuffed couches that line the wall. if you want to be very interactive then head for what we will call “the pit “which is right in front of the stage and has a runway that comes out into the audience. Great for those who want to be up close to those gyrating bodies. Dressing up as one of the characters is, of course, encouraged. We can imagine the Halloween show will be a real blast so reserve early.
THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW
by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM