THE LOWE DOWN
By Jim Lowe
For those of you “Rocky Horror Show” virgins, the legendary 1973 Richard O’Brien rock musical remains ridiculous — ridiculously raunchy, ridiculously tacky and ridiculously funny.
And the latest Merchants Hall production, “Rocky Horror Live,” created by Rutland theater prodigy Jacob Patorti, with quite professional performers, ratcheted all that ridiculousness up several notches — if that can be imagined!
Saturday’s 8 p.m. performance proved a most colorful, fast-paced, unpredictable, terribly bawdy and joyful experience.
Later made into a 1975 feature film, “Rocky Horror Show” spoofs 1940s-’70s science fiction and horror B movies. Like those, the plot is thin, but it allows the performers license to take their performances to new heights of ridiculousness and hilarity. And, over the years, both the play and the movie developed a cult following, resulting in a series of sarcastic and much raunchier audience responses to taunt the performers. (Audiences also often arrived in costume.)
Rutland’s Saturday audience ratcheted up the responses, some becoming physically involved, for an even more engaging experience. I’m not going to tell more — you’ll have to see it for yourself.
For this occasion, Merchants Hall has been recreated as a dark and mysterious grotto by Maxime LeGrande and effectively and imaginatively but barely lit by Cheyenne Sykes. Once folks finally settle in, they are accosted by loud but infectious rock music, led by Patorti.
Enter Mike Cannon as Brad Majors and Maya Redington as Janet Weiss, the virginal couple that, lost in a storm with a flat tire, find themselves at the door of a mysterious castle. The transsexual butler Riff Raff — Patorti again — takes them in, and they are soon separated from most of their clothes and — before they’re done — their sexual innocence.
Their host is the beautiful Frank N’ Furter, a sultry Jane Bruce, who is happy to gratify their most repressed desires — and hers — including Daniel Leonard’s innocent and Adonis-like Rocky.
But the plot is mostly incidental to the fun. The castle is peopled by some pretty bizarre characters, including Eliza Baker’s evil Magenta, Riff Raff’s “sister.” Taylor Carter is the Puck-like Columbia, in love with Rock’s destroyed brother Eddie. Narrating is a haughty but tipsy Julie Redington, while a more incapacitated Katrina McGraw attempted to usher.
Directed by Patorti, the cast was excellent — all fine singers. Choreography by Kristina Desjardin was imaginative and fun, as were costumes by Maya Redington. Patrick Burks was responsible for the wild sound design.
Patorti took some liberties with the original, which largely accentuated or updated its qualities. That said, there were undisciplined moments that resulted in unnecessary lulls. Perhaps the performers were just having too good a time.
For a rollicking raunchy good time, leave your inhibitions at the door and experience “Rocky Horror Live.”
Merchants Hall presents “Rocky Horror Live” Oct. 29-Nov. 7 at 40-42 Merchants Row in Rutland. Remaining performances (BYOB) are at 8 p.m. Nov. 5; and 8 and 11:59 p.m. Nov. 6 and 7. Tickets are $35, $25 in advance; call 1-800-838-3006, or go online to brownpapertickets.com.