By GORDON DRITSCHILO
Jacob Patorti promises that Merchants Hall’s latest production of “The Rocky Horror Show”will be “sexier than ever.”
“We’re playing up the fashion element,” Patorti, the director, said. “We’re doing a runway above the floor. We’re doing a lot of techno-style music. It’s a very modern take on ‘Rocky.’”
For the uninitiated, “Rocky Horror” is a deliberately campy musical with a tradition of extreme audience involvement. The plot, to the extent that it matters, involves a young couple finding their sexuality and loyalty to one another tested when they become stranded at the castle of a crossdressing mad scientist.
It is as silly as it sounds. The film version, 1975’s “Rocky Horror Picture Show” starring Susan Sarandon and Tim Curry, is a cult classic, still shown in midnight screenings in theaters across the country.
This is Merchants Hall’s fifth production of “Rocky Horror,” and Patorti said he has brought in a lot of new blood, both locally and from New York.
“We’ve got all new instrumentalists coming from all over the place that’ll rock your socks off,” he said. “I’ve conducted 30 or 40 bands now in the Rutland area and these guys are the best. They’re going to be very loud in a very fun way and really keep us on our toes.”
Much of the original music has been adapted to fit the production’s theme while dance and club music will play in between the familiar numbers.
Central couple Brad and Janet are played by newcomers, Manhattanite Zach Stephens and Castleton State College student Jessica Poljacik.
“Jess has a lot of attitude,” Patorti said. “She’s going to be wonderfully bitchy to the audience.”
Returning for a third run as Dr. Frank N. Furter is James Lorentz.
“He’s excited to give it a new twist and he really has — he’s gone really dragified,” Patorti said. “Most people go into the dominatrix idea of it. He’s going more glam. … I think he has eight different costume changes.”
Trent Hayward does quadruple duty playing the title character while serving as costume designer, set designer and prop designer. Patorti credits Hayward with a number of mid-show reveals, like rapid costume changes, that give the production energy.
The show has a strong interactive component. The audience sings and dances along with key numbers, heckles the dialogue en masse, using a sort of unofficial script that developed over the years, and heaps unprintable verbal abuse on Brad and Janet.
In this production, guests can pay extra for $12 seats that will be singled out for a heightened level of audience participation.
“These people are signing up to be very involved,” Patorti said. “Their chairs are going to be danced on and they are going to be pulled onstage.”
Twelve shows are planned — 8 p.m. and midnight on Oct. 25, 26, 30 and 31, as well as Nov. 1 and 2. Tickets range from $20 to $35.