The evening started out ordinarily enough. Passing through a double set of towering wooden doors, I found a bar with seemingly run-of-the-mill bartenders (that guests would later find out were dressed for the Rocky occasion) on my right, while an older gentleman in a suit jacket and a knowing grin escorted the guests inside. Once inside, I found the cabaret-style seating a foreign concept, but it fit the mood. Tables were prepped with mixed drinks (even a six-pack of beer), and the free-wheeling guests were clearly ready for the show; some patrons (like me) were in for a ride with an adrenaline rush that they wouldn’t come down from for some hours.
I was pleasantly surprised by the production’s relaxed atmosphere; even sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with strangers was oddly comfortable. Shouts from the audience, encouraged by the cast and production team, created a casual environment—your living room, maybe, if strangers in lingerie routinely pranced around there.
Main couple Brad (Tim Hunt) and Janet (reprised by Betsy Norton) brought things to life as soon as the curtain opened. Strong as these two were, the rest of the ensemble almost stole the show in the first two scenes, creating an up-close-and-personal environment with comical facial expressions and perfect choreography. But it was the main attraction, Dr. Frank N Furter, reprised by Scott Keith, who pulled out all the stops. This Frank was a vision in stilettos.
Although it’s Dr. Furter who keeps the whole show together, some showstoppers were Craig Underwood (“Riff Raff”) and Claire Wilcher (“Magenta”). Their stunning vocals left some of us, dare we say, loving this pair’s version of “The Time Warp” even more than the one on the movie soundtrack? The audience screamed out in applause before the song was over. Wilcher’s maniacal laugh and soulful tone kept me wondering why she hasn’t done more musical productions before.
The only damper on the evening was a bit of technical difficulty during the “birth” of Rocky (Joe Doyel). The scene consists mostly of “Sword of Damocles” sung by Rocky; however, with the mic issues, the audience was unable to hear the very talented Doyel.
The returning Erin Becker is not to be left out to dry in her role as Columbia. What is an understated role in the movie, I’ve always thought, was anything but in this stage production. Becker’s dedication to Columbia left the audience laughing and empathizing with her romance with a surprisingly feminine Eddie—a pleasant surprise in cross-gender casting, Joanna Winston rocked out as Eddie in the first act and wheeled her way through the final act as Dr. Everett Scott. A role that has never been a question of male or female before will now have audiences questioning, “Would a woman have played the part better?”
A musical production that is worth seeing more than once is still happening at the Athenaeum Theatre from today through October 29. At $25, tickets are going fast.