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Seeing “Rocky Horror” for the first time

Anna Holloway Modified: October 23, 2013 at 2:20 pm •  Published: October 23, 2013

For those who have not experienced it, the words “Rocky Horror Show” evoke rumors of strangely dressed people behaving oddly to a movie. Some of the stories might be a little frightening—transvestite Frankenstein and maybe bondage and homosexuality? Is this really the stuff of theatre? Is it safe for a date?
Yes. Absolutely yes.
The Lyric’s production of “The Rocky Horror Show” is hysterically engaging and entertaining musical theatre in the grand and campy tradition of 1950s horror and sci-fi flicks, presented in a wonderfully shabby chic carnival environment that evokes both the 1932 movie “Freaks” and circus strongman masculinity. The songs reference 1950s radio hits, performed in a fully realized contemporary style.
The story is very simple: naïve “normals” Brad and Janet are seeking assistance because their car has broken down in the rain. They come to the house of Dr. Frank ‘N’ Furter, who is building the perfect man—Rocky. In the course of their evening, Brad and Janet lose quite a number of things—but then, so do Frank and Rocky.
Directed by Matthew Alvin Brown and choreographed by Christopher Castleberry, the show is accessible to the “Rocky Horror” virgin as well as a fun reinvention for the more experienced fan. Brown has assembled a brilliantly balanced cast and given a lightly refreshed feel to the show. The use of space in the set design, choreography, and direction works impressively to move the story forward. Castleberry has built some astonishingly beautiful dance numbers; under the baton of Brian Hamilton, the music is, as one expects from Lyric, just grand.
Monte Riegel Wheeler (Frank) gives an operatically vocal nuance to the spoken text, in addition to singing the role with great gusto and assurance. Lexi Windsor (Janet) and Sean Eckhart (Brad) make a splendidly confused couple, transitioning from ignorance to experience in a way that would make William Blake proud. As with Mary Shelley’s Creature, Rocky is the only true innocent, and Sean Burroughs gives a physically and vocally affecting performance.

The cast of The Rocky Horror Show at Lyric on the Plaza
The cast of The Rocky Horror Show at Lyric on the Plaza

As Frank’s “servants,” Colin Anderson performed Riff Raff with a delightfully sinister glee, and Kate Moore gives us a tart and sexually petulant Magenta. Renee Anderson (Columbia) and Vince Leseney (Eddie/Dr. Scott) are both dramatically successful complements to the action. The narrator, a carnival fortune telling machine, is played with great majesty and sly humor by W. Jerome Stevenson. The narrator’s job includes bending the occasional steely gaze upon the audience; Stevenson handles this masterfully.
Be prepared: audience participation is part of the experience. Four “Phantoms” provide instruction at the beginning, and the program, cleverly designed to fully complement the experience, also offers directions. This is fully adult theatre, not recommended for anyone who has not yet figured out what sex is all about. There is no nudity, but plenty of sexual play, innuendo, and suggestion. If you are more likely to be offended by transFrank’s corsets, fishnets, and heels than by Rocky’s skimpy gold lame shorts, this show is not for you.
“The Rocky Horror Show” is at Lyric on the Plaza at 1727 NW 16th in Oklahoma City through November 2, running Tuesday – Thursday at 7:30, Friday and Saturday at 8:00, and 11:59 p.m. on Saturday, October 26, and Thursday, October 31. Some shows are already sold out; check for availability.