Arts preview: Two theater companies bring 'Rocky Horror' to the stage

Jim Fischer

No matter how many times it's suggested we do "The Time Warp" (again, and again, and again), it never gets old.

So, Imagine Productions and Cyclodrama to the rescue, as both local troupes present "The Rocky Horror Show" this month. Yes, it's a live show!

The cult-classic film "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" has been a rite of passage of sorts for more than 40 years, and while its stature may have waned some in recent years, there appears to still be plenty of interest. Indeed, Fox will air its remake of the 1975 film on Thursday, Oct. 20, and you can still see the original in a handful of theaters around central Ohio, including monthly showings at Studio 35 Cinema and Drafthouse courtesy of the Fishnet Mafia, which does themed shadow-cast performances (onstage fun while the film is shown on the big screen) at the Clintonville movie house. The next showing is on Saturday, Oct. 29. Search "The Fishnet Mafia" on Facebook for more information.

But while many have thrown rice and toast, or yelled "slut!" at Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick, Patricia Quinn and Tim Curry through the years, audiences remain largely unaware that the film is adapted from a stage musical that had a successful run in London and an unsuccessful one on Broadway.

Richard O'Brien's "The Rocky Horror Show" (O'Brien played Riff Raff in the original London and New York casts, as well as in the film) opened in London in 1973, a full two years before the film's release.

The stage show doesn't differ greatly from the well-known film version, but these two local productions hope to capitalize on the familiarity while highlighting the differences.

"It's a pretty unique beast; that's why it has the cult following," said Ed Eblin, a founding member of Imagine Productions who directs this show. "We're honoring and embracing the movie elements, but we also put a little heart and soul into crafting backstories for the characters, and that's reflected onstage."

"We hope there are a couple things we do that will open the eyes of people who aren't typical theater-goers," said Carolyn Cutri, who directs and plays Janet in the Cyclodrama production.

"I love that you get these whole [production numbers] where everyone is dancing and moving the same," said Kayla Scites, Cyclodrama's Magenta.

Sharing a physical space with the characters can change your perception and offer a clearly different experience, despite any familiarity.

"You get all these people in some pretty high heels and it changes the way you move," Imagine Productions choreographer Geno Smith said.

"These voices that are singing, it's right in front of you," Eblin said.

And while much of the movie's appeal is the opportunity to interact with it, the live show offers an added level of interactivity.

"Because we're in such a small space [at Club Diversity], we're really doing the show cabaret-style," Cyclodrama's Dr. Frank-N-Furter Jason Fletcher said. "We're treating our guests like they're Transylvanians who are there for the party."

"Our actors play to the audience, 'wink-wink' style," Eblin said.

"We'll be right out there in the audience, dancing in the aisles, in people's faces," Cutri said.

Acknowledging that this will not likely prove satisfactory for people who have expectations of a more traditional "Rocky Horror" interactivity, both productions will offer nods to the show's movie audiences, providing audience participation "goodie bags" with items familiar to "Rocky Horror" audiences, and allowing for audience call backs.

"Several members of our cast are familiar with most of the call backs," Eblin said. "We've programmed pauses into the dialogue."

"You really have to get the cast used to waiting that beat for a call back, so there's no missed dialogue," Smith said.

Members of both casts said the interactivity is only one aspect of the show's ongoing cult-classic status.

"The show was one of the first to bring this style of music to the stage, but even more so, it helped motivate groups of people to be more comfortable with how they wanted to live their lives," said David Taylor, Cyclodrama's music director, who will also adopt the role of Brad onstage.

"Our show has a fresh, sexier appeal for [a younger] generation," Imagine's Riff Raff Johnny Robison said.

"I love seeing people of all shapes and sizes embrace their sexy, their moxie, their sass," Smith said.

"As one of our older cast members, I knew all about the movie and have always been a diehard fanatic," Fletcher said. "Letting loose is what it's all about."

Imagine Productions

Northland Performing Arts Center

8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, Oct. 27-29

4411 Tamarack Blvd., North Side


Club Diversity

7:30 p.m. Fridays-

Sundays, Oct. 21-30

(no show Oct. 22)

863 S. High St.,

Brewery District