Reports come in from around the globe. Crowds dressed in black with top hats in Auckland, New Zealand. Black eye shadow comes with sequins in Hong Kong. Even in Kuala Lumpur, gangs of men dressed in torn net stockings and high heels are gathering near entrances of theaters. Two weeks ago they were sighted in Manhattan. And last weekend they packed the State Fairgrounds’ New Times Theater to the gills, some with faces painted green. Yes, they are the audiences for the revival of The Rocky Horror Show. You don’t have to tell them to bring their rice, playing cards, toast or toilet paper (Scott brand preferred).
Producer-director Chris Lightcap took a deep breath before reviving a show her Talent Company has been linked with for decades. Nobody does market research to see if rabid fans are still charged up for a show first produced in 1973. Or how many younger audiences want to learn the steps of “The Time Warp.” But rock musicals are an entirely different bet. Add satire, campy excess and outrage, and you’ve got a beast that continues to come alive right before us. Just like Rocky.
Rocky Horror is one of those rare shows where audiences show up because they already know the outcome and every song and every line of dialogue. It’s also the granddaddy of audience participation shows, where audiences continue to mock the excesses or corniness of the original. In Cambridge, Mass., movie audiences whoop it up for “Love is never having to say you’re sorry” during midnight showings of the Harvardbased Love Story. London film audiences have been doing the same for The Sound of Music. But they’re canned movies. With Rocky Horror we have live performers who wait for the rice or the toast to come in through the fourth wall, or duck when the toilet paper rolls come flying and still stay in character. Hey, Shakespeare does not demand so much from an actor.
When it comes to the dominating figure of Frank-N-Furter, the cross-dressing impresario in high heels, John DiDonna simply owns the role in these parts. DiDonna did the role before any of us were on the Internet or had cell phones, and he had to come back from Central Florida to take over. His swagger may resemble a bit of Tim Curry’s in the film version, but for a guy who has done this for 25 years his sneer and his leer come off sharper and fresher. Relish the kinkiness of his “Sweet