The movie THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW just celebrated its fortieth anniversary, but the stage play was originally produced in June of 1973 at the Royal Court Theatre. It all started onstage, and probably worked best there when it all began. Yet the film looms large on the cultural landscape, still selling out monthly showings at the River Oaks Movie Theatre with its own Shadow Cast. In Houston every year a theatre company mounts this chesnut of campy sexual confusion, and puts their own spin on it. The trouble is, how do you differentiate yourself from the iconic Tim Curry and Richard O’Brien? How do you reimagine a show that was shocking in 1973? In this era of legal gay marriages, Caitlyn Jenner, and RuPaul’s Drag Race, how do you sell the idea that the all American couple is in danger by just attending a party thrown by a gender bending scientist? FIshnets, pearls, corsets, and gay sex aren’t quite as scary as they once were.
Pitch Me This Productions has rented out the largest space in the newly constructed Midtown Arts Center Houston, and decided to put ROCKY HORROR in a circus setting. This big top idea isn’t new. Just last year an Austin troupe including Drag Race winner Bianca Del Rio mounted ROCKY HORROR in a big top world, and it has been done this way a few times. Gone is the castle, and instead we have three rings and a trapeze. The Phantom chorus and dance troop become clowns, and Frank N Furter is now a ringmaster in the middle of all the Barnum & Bailey trappings. The cast maneuvers their way through the numbers while tangled up in silks, or hanging upside down from a bar. Frank gets an incredibly inventive entrance that has to be seen to be believed in this version. I’m not sure the circus theme adds much to the “Don’t Dream It Be It” message, but it does frame things fine. It allows a new space for the performers to distance themselves from the beloved movie that can never be replicated. This is a high energy show! Most of the cast has no trouble executing the gymnastics of these type of performers, and it’s amazing to see them manage their Cirque du Soleil moves without ever missing a note.
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