Note: This review has been updated and republished with additional pictures. It originally ran on October 5, 2015.
Not every musical shines in a black box theater, but Chameleon Theatre Circle uses it to bring audience immersion to splendid heights in its production of The Rocky Horror Show. This production is a model of using a flexible space to great effect, putting the audience front and center in a wonderfully campy romp.
Rocky Horror productions tend to come in two flavors: straight-laced (however hard that may seem with such salacious material and laced corsets) and laced with audience interaction. CTC’s is very much the latter: audience members are encouraged to shout in from the semiofficial audience participation script refined/dragged in the dirt over decades of late night movie viewings. Like heckling, it can be a great addition when done right,and the cast is well-versed (as this one is) to respond in kind.
If you’re wondering, “Why now?” and the answer isn’t “Why not?”… there are a few anniversaries involved. Rocky Horror is CTC’s 100th production and 2015 happens to be the 40th anniversary of the stage musical’s classic movie adaptation starring Tim Curry. (Trivia: Princess Diana was quite the fan of the show.) While Chameleon Theatre Circle normally puts on a good show, this one is a cut above normal, starting with the thrilling rendition of the opening number “Science Fiction/Double Feature” by Nicole Korbisch (Magenta). Although Charles Goitia (Frank-N-Furter) is story-wise the delectable center of the action, Nicole is the show’s vocal star, a powerhouse singer who grabs attention and doesn’t it let it go until well after the music has died away.
One of the things that works very well about this production is the decision to place the audience in a thrust seating arrangement, with the main action right in front of them and various supporting elements and departures unfolding around and behind the audience. The result is that the audience is frequently surrounded by singing from every direction – a spectacular sound when the whole cast busts out in the big ensemble pieces.
Visually, the production and cast are not bad to look at, with interesting costumes by Lisa Diesslin and a campy 70s metal/goth/counterculture excess of hair and makeup by Krystal Bartlowe. When he starts flexing, it’s quickly clear what parts of Rocky (Daniel Li)’s beefcake seduces Janet (Seana Harris) into a moment of indiscretion. That, however, is a sideshow to the main story.
Any production of The Rocky Horror Show requires a stellar Frank-N-Furter, and Charles Goitia delivers the hot dog and the hot diggity. His darkly melodious voice oozes a delicious charisma, and he’s a domineering focus as he struts the room and lures Brad (Eric Oscar Sargent) and Janet into his web. Sargent and Harris play straight well against Goitia’s thrusts; the supporting cast of Eddie and Dr. Scott (both played by Dylan Olmsted), Columbia (Jessica Lynn), Riff Raff (Body Meinke), and the Narrator (Richard William Kopf) round out the ensemble. It’s a strong cast vocally, and the dancing isn’t bad, either. Dale Miller’s musical direction is tight and energetic, with the band well-synced in a way that some recent productions have not done as well.
It’s a trope that Minnesota audiences don’t like audience participation, but this cast is likely to draw you out for “The Time Warp” or a reprise. Rocky Horror gets the editorial 5/5 stars.
Basil was named one of Musical America's 30 Professionals of the Year in 2017.