Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Phoenix

The Rocky Horror Show
The Phoenix Theatre Company
Review by Gil Benbrook

Also see Gil's reviews of Radium Girls, Clue and Harvey


Kade Bailey, Šime Košta, and Alyssa Chiarello
Photo by Reg Madison Photography
The Rocky Horror Show may have one of the most bizarre plots for a musical, but with an infectious score and lovable cartoon characters that spoof the sci-fi and horror B-movies of the 1950s and '60s, it sure is a lot of fun. While Richard O'Brien's creation flopped on Broadway, it became a hit when the film adaptation played in midnight showings across the country. With a sensational cast, led by Šime Košta in a take no prisoners performance as Frank-N-Furter, and direction that brings a fresh, fun take on this beloved show, the Phoenix Theatre Company's production is an absolute knockout.

The show begins when the car that newly engaged couple Brad and Janet are driving has a flat tire, which forces them to take shelter at a nearby castle. They only want to use the phone to call for help but little do they know that the owner of the house, Frank-N-Furter, is a mad scientist who is about to reveal his latest creation, a muscle man named Rocky whom it appears he's planning to marry. Add in the creepy caretakers of the house, brother and sister Riff Raff and Magenta, the tap-dancing Columbia, who is obsessed with the bad boy Eddie who has been locked up in the freezer, a strange doctor who is in a wheelchair, a narrator who keeps interrupting the plot, and other guests who've come to witness Rocky's unveiling and who may or may not be aliens from the planet of Transsexual, and you have one of the craziest plots ever for a musical.

While the plot may be convoluted, bizarre, and slightly confusing with numerous plot holes, Richard O'Brien's score features more than a dozen toe-tapping tunes, soaring ballads, and comical songs, with lyrics that are clever and even somewhat moving. Director Robert Kolby Harper finds a way to pay homage to the classic film while creating a Rocky Horror that is fresh and fun, with original touches throughout that add pops of humor to the dialogue, the characters, and the situations.

There isn't a weak link in the cast. Šime Košta is delivering a star-making performance as Frank-N-Furter that is fearless, sexually charged, and an absolute riot that pays homage to Tim Curry's original portrayal while making it entirely his own. Košta's clear, rich and strong singing voice soars on his many songs and he brings the perfect balance of masculine and feminine touches to the beloved character that will most likely seduce every audience member just like Frank seduces just about every character in the show.

With bright and warm singing voices and performances that beautifully add dimension to their otherwise cartoony characters, Kade Bailey and Alyssa Chiarello are appropriately square yet entirely adorable as Brad and Janet. As the kooky brother and sister duo Riff Raff and Magenta, Michael Damian Fasano and Lynzee Foreman are an absolute hoot. Kat Bailes and Chris Kane are both hilarious as the obsessive Columbia and dimwitted Rocky, and Cullen Law is cheeky as the droll Narrator. The film became popular when audiences would spout humorous lines and yell insults throughout the movie and this has become a staple for the live stage production as well. Law takes the brunt of most of the insults the audience hurls and his comebacks are hilarious. I've seen Johanna Carlisle-Zepeda in close to a dozen shows in the Valley and here she delivers another wonderful performance—two actually, which stop the show twice, as she appears in drag as both Eddie and Dr. Scott.

The creative aspects are superb. The impressive and colorful set design by Tiana Torrilhon and William Symington features many imaginative touches, including some that foreshadow the plot, such as the remains of a crashed spaceship. Maci Hosler's costumes are character specific and while they slightly echo the familiar film designs, just like the direction, they are also quite original and, along with the superb hair and make-up designs by Terre Steed, deliver colorful and fresh takes on these beloved characters. The lighting design by William C. Kirkham uses a range of deep colors and shadows while also creating some impressive stage images. Dave Temby's sound design ensures every line of dialogue and lyric is crystal clear, and the music direction by Mark 4Man is excellent, as is the small live band. Also, Sarah Harris' props are fresh and comical, and Adam Benavides' video designs deliver a cute and original way to begin the show.

I think this is only the second production of Rocky Horror that's been presented in town since I moved here eight years ago. With a sensational cast, excellent direction, and impressive creative elements, I can't imagine another production living up to the high standards that Phoenix Theatre Company's production has delivered.

The Rocky Horror Show runs through December 5, 2021, at The Phoenix Theatre Company, 1825 N Central Avenue, Phoenix AZ. For tickets and information, please visit phoenixtheatre.com or call 602-254-2151

Director: Robert Kolby Harper
Music Director: Mark 4man
Scenic Designer: Tiana Torrilhon and William Symington
Lighting Designer: William C. Kirkham
Sound Designer: Dave Temby
Costume Designer: Maci Hosler
Properties Master: Sarah Harris
Hair And Make Up Designer: Terre Steed
Video Designer: Adam Benavides
Director Of Production: Karla Frederick
Company Manager: Alex Koszewski
Stage Manager: Katie Ringwood*
Asst. Stage Manager: Maylea Bauers*
Covid Compliance Officer: Tatiana Trujillo

Cast:
Columbia: Kat Bailes
Brad: Kade Bailey
Eddie Understudy/Dr. Scott Understudy: Geoff Belliston
Phantom/Rocky Understudy: Kale Burr
Phantom Understudy/Magenta Understudy: Tarnim Bybee
Dr. Scott/Eddie: Johanna Carlisle-Zepeda*
Janet/Dance Captain: Alyssa Chiarello*
Phantom/Drums/Columbia Understudy: Michelle Chin*
Riff-Raff/Frank ‘N' Furter Understudy: Michael Damian Fasano*
Magenta: Lynzee Foreman
Rocky: Chris Kane*
Frank ‘N' Furter: Šime Košta
Narrator/Guitar: Cullen Law
Brad Understudy/Riff Raff Understudy/Phantom Understudy: Griffin Leblanc
Phantom/Janet Understudy: Brianna Mcclur

* Courtesy Of Actors' Equity Association, The Union Of Professional Actors & Stage Managers in the U.S.


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