Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco

The Rocky Horror Show, Andrea Marcovicci
and Russ Lorenson

A Rockin' Good Production of The Rocky Horror Show

The 100-year-old Victoria Theatre will never be the same after the Ray of Light Theatre production of the cult classic The Rocky Horror Show concludes on November 15th. This company is presenting a most energetic cast of young talented singers and dancers, worthy worthy of an Off-Broadway theatre event.

In the fall of 1973, we took a taxi to Classic Cinema, a run-down theatre on Kings Road in London to see this clever, high-energy musical featuring your average mad transvestite alien scientist played by Tim Curry. The musical chalked up 2960 performances in London, before launching its American premiere at the Roxy Theatre in Los Angeles on March 21, 1974, with Tim Curry repeating the role of Frank 'N' Furter. The 1975 New York opening was at the Belasco Theatre with Tim Curry and Meat Loaf in the cast. Unfortunately, the New York critics were not impressed and it played only 45 performances. Fox also released the film version in 1975 with Susan Sarandon playing Janet and Barry Bostwick playing Brad; Tim Curry once again repeated his role. The film became a midnight movie cult hit with hyper and sometimes inebriated fans giving a whole new meaning to the film.

For this production, director and choreographer Cate Caplin has assembled some great, young, energy-driven singers and dancers for an exuberant musical that rocks the house. This garish, ear-assaulting show is still a lot of fun. Richard O'Brien's score is a mixture of '50s rock and soul and is contagious and stimulating.

It all starts with the Narrator, wonderfully played by Ron Lanza with a Boris Karloff voice saying, "I would like, if I may, to take you on a strange journey." (Fans of the film were in the audience on opening night yelling such things as "asshole" to dork Brad Majors.) Jason Hoover and Rebecca Pingree as the dorky newlyweds play the roles to perfection. They seem to be on another planet in this weird musical. She seems to go to bed with everyone except with her fiancé while Jason has some interesting sexual affairs. Vocally, they are standouts with clear and flexible voices.

Jef Valentine is charismatic in his fishnet stockings as the barmy transvestite scientist Frank 'N' Furter. He embraces the drag role with an almost fanatical gusto. His vocal cords on the songs are vigorous and bell clear. There is a little bit of Marilyn Manson menace in his portrayal. Scott Gessford is convincing as the blond, muscled, moronic sex toy created by Frank to satisfy his sexual urges. Sarah Kathleen Farrell's portrayal of the freak groupie Columbia is entertaining. She has a voice that sounds like Jean Hagen in Singing in the Rain. She has one crazy range when singing.

Leanne Borghesi as Eddie is a ball of fire in her gothic makeup, while Jessica Coker almost steals the show as Magenta, giving a first rate performance with her comic timing and dynamite singing voice. Manuel Caneri gives a believable performance as the evil minion Riff Raff who wants to return to his planet Transsexual. Amanda Dolan is exuberant as the usherette in the opening sequence, singing and dancing with female cast members of the "Science Fiction Double Feature." Theresa Ireland, Nicole Gonzales, Alexis Wong, Lonnie Haley, Joey Greenwell, Steven Slatten, Enrique Vallejo and Paul Ziller, appearing in gold heels and leather corsets, shimmy and shake in Cate Caplin's raunchy choreography. There is not a weak performance from this committed cast.

The five-piece orchestra under the direction of Ben Prince keeps spirits high. Fortunately, the band is on the second tier of B. J. West's great two-story set so the bawdy lyrics can be heard. Also, at the beginning of the musical, West has designed outstanding projections of Brad and Janet on the road to the spooky castle of Frank 'N' Furter. Mark Koss has designed some great, outlandish costumes for the youthful cast, and lighting by Dustin Snyder is a great asset. Under Cate Caplin's direction the entire show glides along effortlessly.

Let's face it, this musical is not high art in the truest sense of the word. It's convoluted with a thin story line and is sometimes downright silly, but it is now part of musical canon since it continues to appear in so many theaters in the United States and the UK. It is a fun 90-minute show, and this production raises the rafters of this old theatre (there is an intermission after 40 minutes into the first act to give the audience a breather).

The Rocky Horror Show plays through November 15th at the Victoria Theatre, 16th Street and Mission, San Francisco. For tickets on line go to Tickets can also be purchased at TIX Bay Area Booth on Union Square.

The Incomparable Andrea Marcovicci Returns to San Francisco

Andrea Marcovicci, the unrivaled Queen of Cabaret, is making her first appearance at the new and beautiful Rrazz Room through November 2 with the nostalgic Marcovicci Sings Movies II, a tribute to movie music. Backed by the great Shelly Markham on piano and the dazzling musicianship of Dan Fabricant, Andrea presents a brilliant show with her captivating voice. The artist revisits a theme she first explored 22 year ago, this time she examining the history and romance of popular films such as The Gay Divorcee, Roberta, Easter Parade, Meet Me in St. Louis, all the way to Toy Story 2.

Andrea Marcovicci has chalked up an astonishing 20-year run at premiere venues in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. No one approaches her ravishing personal presence or has the capability of striking such persuasive and sophisticated attitudes so smoothly and smartly. She sings every song with great flair and dramatic readings, managing to seduce and weave a spell over her audience. There is no fourth wall between her the audience. She calls herself the "chatty chanteuse" since he has a knack for creating nostalgia for each song she sings. Her reading of lyrics is so lucid that the music recedes to the background.

She opens the show with a sublime rendition of Ira Gershwin and Jerome Kern's "Long Ago and Far Away" from Cover Girl and segues into the Bergmans and Dave Grusin's "It Might Be You" from Tootsie. She tells an interesting story about the Herman Hupfeld song "As Time Goes By," which was almost cut because Ingrid Bergman was in the process of cutting her hair for her next film, For Whom the Bell's Tolled. Also, the song actually came from a failed 1931 Broadway show, Everybody's Welcome. She has many insights into film, such as on Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown's "Good Morning," which was first heard in the 1939 film Babes in Arms sung by Judy Garland and Sidney Miller.

Andrea romantically sings Johnny Mercer and Henry Mancini's "Moon River" and "Charade," then segues into the Leslie Bricusse and Henry Mancini song, "Two for the Road," from one of her favorite films with the same title. Andrea chides her fans to drink up as she sings a moving "Days of Wine and Roses," also penned by Johnny Mercer and Henry Mancini. She goes to the piano to play and sing a little known Diane Bulgarelli song, "Someone to Love," from the film of the same name. The artist even tackles a Betty Hutton song: Frank Loesser's "Hamlet" from Red, Hot and Blue.

The singer announces to her fans that she is soon reaching sixty and is the last of the older musical artists "who can still move her face." She talks about a time when she and her husband took their young daughter to see Toy Story 2 and she wept during the Randy Newman song, "When She Loved Me," a touching song sung by a doll who's no longer needed by the girl who once played with her. Years later, Andrea reluctantly broke up with husband in what she calls a "loving separation" and she sadly put her head on his shoulder and began singing the song. She tells the audience this will be one of the last times she will sing it in public says, "I'm not sure I'll get through it." After singing the song, she says she is still "young at heart" and sings the Johnny Richards/Carolyn Leigh song from the film of the same name.

The 70-minute show is pure entertainment and she still is one of most luminous of cabaret stars. The consummated artist plays The Rrazz Room, Hotel Nikko, 222 Mason Street, San Francisco through November 2. For reservations please call 866-468-3399.

Russ Lorenson Returns to San Francisco with Standard Time

Russ Lorenson recently presented his new show Standard Time at the Rrazz Room. Russ, who has one of the coolest voices around, is truly one of the great cabaret artists singing today.

Standard songs are usually by the Gershwins, Cole Porter and Irving Berlin. Lorenson contends that great songs in the standard style have been written in the last 20 years by such writers as Harry Connick Jr, Peter Cincotti, Michael Feinstein, Andrew Lippa and even his pianist, Kelly Park. He certainly proved that to be the case on his one night gig.

Russ Lorenson entered the stage looking very suave in white shirt, black vest and a dashing fedora. He had an immediate relationship with the audience. His laid back delivery of both romantic and up beat songs was pitch perfect. He opened the show with a swinging arrangement of "Raise the Roof" from Andrew Lippa's The Wild Party, which gave the show a great start. From there on in it was smooth sailing for this talented artist. During the 90-minute gig, he sang nineteen songs with very little patter.

Russ gave sleek readings of the Cincotti-written "Are You the One" and "I Changed the Rules." He sang a swinging version of Kelly Park's "Diamond In the Sky," a variation on "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" that the composer wrote for his daughter Christina when she was four years old. He was flawless when singing Harry Connick Jr.'s "Forever For Now" (lyrics by Ramsey McLean) and "I'll Dream of You Again." Russ turned comic when he sang Michael Garin's "My Hand," a bawdy song to one's hand that probably could be X-rated. He ended the show with a very new song written by Kelly Park and Russ called "It's Raining Memories," which was inspired by the Robert Clarey's song from New Faces of 1951. However, this is an entirely new song, sung with great passion.

Back-up was terrific with Los Angeles drummer Brian Carmody, Terrence Brewer on a special plugged-in Benedetto Guitar and Tom Hubbard on bass—his playing was dazzling and his duet on Maury Yeston's "Danglin" was incomparable.

Although Russ Lorenson's voice has been compared to Tony Bennett, Chet Baker and Mel Torme, this artist is his own man. His gig was on Sunday October 12th at the Rrazz Room of the Hotel Nikko, 220 Mason Street, San Francisco.

Cheers - and be sure to Check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area

- Richard Connema

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