Regional Reviews: Phoenix
The plot starts off fairly simple yet veers into the land of convolution. When their car breaks down, newly engaged couple Brad and Janet (Ian Eller and Celine Sanel) happen upon a nearby castle and hope to use the owner's phone to call for help. However, the caretakers of the house, brother and sister Riff Raff and Magenta (Eric Flayton and Holly Payne), inform the couple that they've arrived on a most special evening. Their master, Frank-N-Furter (Bennett Wood), a mad scientist in fishnet stockings appears, takes the duo to his laboratory, and reveals his latest creation, a muscle man named Rocky (Chase Zeiner) whom, it appears, Frank is planning to settle down with. As Frank pulls the virginal duo of Brad and Janet further into his sexual experimentational exploits, the plot pulls in bizarre characters and elements, including a strange man in a wheelchair (Asher Sheppard), a tap-dancing chorine (Cate Carlino), a motorcycle-riding rocker (Sean Lillis), aliens from the planet Transsexual, laser ray guns, and two stuffy narrators (Sawyer Bland and Carter Palumbo) who constantly interrupt the plot.
While not everyone in the cast has expert singing voices, they all humorously throw themselves into their roles. Wood is fearless and fun as Frank, while Eller and Sanel are perfectly square yet adorable as Brad and Janet. Flayton and Payne are kooky yet charming as the incestuous Riff Raff and Magenta, and Carlino provides some high-flying tap steps as Columbia. Sheppard, Zeiner and Lillis add a few moments of fun to the show, and the narrator duo of Bland and Palumbo interject plenty of drollness into their line delivery. Bland got the brunt of the hurled insults from the audience on the night I attended, yet he spontaneously came up with some perfectly humorous comebacks.
Director Peter Bish has his cast pay homage to the film characters without completely mimicking them, while also creating an entirely giddy atmosphere for them to play in. He also ensures the cast give plenty of room for the audience participatory element to play out. Musical director Curtis Moeller does an excellent job with the large cast and the small but exceptional band. Choreographer Dale Nakagawa adds fun steps to the many upbeat musical numbers. Ben Bozovich's costume designs are stellar and the combination of the simple yet effective set design from Bish, Chase Budden, and Eric Beeck and Bob Nelson's sumptuous lighting delivers some eye catching stage images.
Scottsdale Community Players' production has a lot to admire, and the cast and fun creative elements help to offset a lot of the quibbles I have with the piece. While it probably makes sense to know the show or film before seeing a production of the musical to get the most out of it, I believe you can still enjoy it even if you're a so-called Rocky "virgin." The audience component can also truly make or break a performance, and, while many of the comments the audience makes have been around since the 1970s, on the night I attended, one audience member humorously brought the show right up to the modern age when they shouted "what's your favorite Adele song?" right before Riff Raff opened the door and said "Hello" to Brad and Janet.
Scottsdale Community Players' The Rocky Horror Show, through August 11th, 2018, at Greasepaint Youth Theatre, 7020 E. 2nd Street, in Scottsdale AZ. For information and to purchase tickets call 480-949-7529 or visit www.greasepaint.org.
and Lyrics by Richard O'Brien