Review: 'The Rocky Horror Show' from Tulsa Project Theatre
BY JAMES D. WATTS JR. World Scene Writer
Tuesday, October 02, 2012
10/02/12 at 6:58 AM
A couple of people dressed up in spangle-covered coats and fishnet stockings. Some brought rice to throw. Some brought newspapers to protect themselves from imaginary rain. A few engaged in lustily shouting profane insults at every opportunity.
And a bunch took to dancing in the aisles, always beginning their gyrations with "just a jump to the left, then a step to the right."
In other words, just another night at "The Rocky Horror Show."
Tulsa Project Theatre opened its first season as an Actors Equity Small Professional Theatre company with a slightly revised production of this musical by Richard O'Brien.
"The Rocky Horror Show" was the company's first production in 2009, and the new production, which opened Friday at the Tulsa Convention Center's Assembly Hall, is a mixture of old and new.
Which is appropriate, given that "The Rocky Horror Show" itself is a stitched together mash-up of parodies of B-grade science-fiction movies, rock 'n' roll cliches, '70s-era pan-sexual decadence and camp humor.
And this "Rocky" delivered just about everything fans of this show could want - from a venue where the flinging of rice and toilet paper was allowed (patrons can purchase a sack of audience-participation props if they forget to bring their own) to actors capable of either soldiering on through, or timing their speeches to make room for, the shouted audience comments.
It also had a new and serviceable set designed to evoke the sort of castle where bizarre things would happen in old "Hammer Horror" films, augmented by a series of black-and-white video projections.
Most importantly, the show has a first-rate cast of singers. This was one of the best sounding "Rocky Horror" shows I've seen in Tulsa, with a blend of voices that made the show's choral numbers shimmer with spot-on harmonies.
Newcomers to the cast - Robbie Bennett as Brad and Janna O'Leary as Janet, the unwitting squares who find themselves at the mercy of the most unusual denizens of an odd castle one rainy night - were excellent.
Bennett turned "Once in a While," which often has been a kind of throwaway number, into a showstopper with a heartfelt yet still humorous performance that had him strolling through the audience in his underwear. And O'Leary gave a suitably delirious performance of "Touch-a Touch-a Touch-a Touch Me."
Claire Kifer, returning as Magenta, started things off well with a powerful rendition of "Science Fiction," and handling much of the vocal leads in "Time Warp." Bob Hendricks made a droll Narrator, Jenny Guy gave the character of Columbia a schizophrenically ditzy sort of charm, and Ian Foster Weddle was a surprisingly subdued Riff Raff.
Chad Oliverson reprised his role as Dr. Frank N. Furter, handling the character's outrageous, if somewhat minimal, costume and songs ranging from the raucous "Sweet Transvestite" to the almost tender "Don't Dream It" with equal ease. Oliverson didn't play the character quite as broadly as he has in the past; there was a bit more control and finesse to this Frank's frankness.
Director Heather Hall-Newman's staging kept the action onstage in almost perpetual motion, and music director Kent Dennis varied some of the songs' tempos to help make the lyrics more discernible.
Still, as with any enterprise bent on creating new life out of old, pieced-together parts and a few jolts of electricity, things don't work out exactly as planned - though these flaws were not the sort that would bring out the village populace with flaming torches and pointed sticks.
Friday's opening night production had its share of technical difficulties. The wireless microphones necessary for actors to be heard in Assembly Hall would occasionally erupt with feedback noises, or the signals from some would be buried in the sound mix, or they might work only intermittently (Chris Middlebrook, in the dual role of Eddie and Dr. Scott, was the most frequent victim of this).
Middlebrook, who has been excellent in previous TPT musicals, seemed to struggle a bit with the high-energy rock number, "Hot Patootie - Bless My Soul," as if the song's style was more than a bit out of his comfort zone.
As the show's title character, the stitched-up muscle man Rocky, Nigel Sullivan was a character better seen than heard. Suffice it to say, the one song Rocky sings, "The Sword of Damocles," is not a part of this production.
'The Rocky Horror Show'
"The Rocky Horror Show" continues with performances 7:30 p.m. Friday, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Tulsa Convention Center's Assembly Hall. For tickets, call 877-855-7222 or go to tulsaworld.com/tpttix
Original Print Headline: Rockin' reprise
James D. Watts Jr. 918-581-8478 firstname.lastname@example.org
Chad Oliverson, as Dr. Frank N. Furter (right), rehearses with the cast of Tulsa Project Theatre's production of "The Rocky Horror Show." RIP STELL / for the Tulsa World